Japanese diet is full of heavy metals

Japanese diet is full of heavy metals
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The Japanese diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. But you’d probably be surprised to know that Japanese diet is full of heavy metals. Let’s take a closer look.

Heavy metals in food

Some of the most common and most toxic heavy metals include mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic (actually, arsenic is not a heavy metal, it’s a metalloid). Over time, these elements gradually accumulate in a living organism.

Animals and plants absorb heavy metals from the water, air, and soil as they grow. Some foods, like fish, seafood, brown rice, and leafy greens, are higher in heavy metals than others.

Mercury in tuna

Japanese diet is full of heavy metalsSushi is a Japanese cuisine staple. Japanese people love sushi, and tuna is their most favorite topping – about 46% of all toppings.

Like any other large ocean fish, tuna contains higher-than-average amounts of highly toxic heavy metals such as mercury and cadmium, which can accumulate in your body and cause severe health effects.

The most eaten seafood in Japan is Pacific Bluefin tuna, the largest of the tuna species! According to the Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries (a Tokyo-based industry group), Japanese people consume about 450,000 tons of tuna a year — more than anywhere else in the world.

Japanese people eat about 100gr of fish daily, while typical Americans eat fish perhaps twice a week.

Maximum permissible level of mercury in retail fish

The American and Canadian health authorities have set a maximum permissible level of mercury in retail fish and seafood of 0.5ppm (parts per million). In Japan, the rules ban many types of seafood if the concentration of mercury exceeds 0.4ppm. However, a few studies have shown that the concentration of mercury in tuna sold on the Japanese markets was 1.11ppm, clearly higher than the permissible level.

Arsenic and cadmium in rice

Rice is the world’s most popular food. Like for almost half of the world’s population, rice is a staple food in Japan. However, rice absorbs more arsenic and cadmium from the soil than wheat or barley. According to latest studies, rice accounts for 40–65% of the total dietary consumption of these toxic elements.

Japanese diet is full of heavy metalsArsenic, cadmium, and lead are among the toxic metals that pose serious health effects in humans. Exposure to these metals through a diet is of concern, especially among rice consumers.

The chronic intake of heavy metals through rice consumption can cause serious irretrievable damage to human health. People who consume arsenic- and cadmium-contaminated rice are at a great risk since their excessive consumption is linked to cancer and conditions like Itai-itai disease.

Arsenic is recognized as a class 1 human carcinogen. Brown rice contains up to 80% more arsenic than white rice. Rice takes up arsenic from soil and water more readily than other grains. Arsenic is concentrated in the thin outer layer that gives brown rice its color.

Researchers have found that cooking rice by repeatedly flushing it through with fresh hot water could lessen levels of the toxic substances in it.

Limit sushi intake warn scientists

From the start of the 21st century, the popularity and consumption of sushi all over the world has increased significantly. The number of restaurants offering sushi is growing very fast.

Japanese diet is full of heavy metalsAlthough fish and rice have a high nutritional value, eating sushi regularly can lead to exposure to dangerous chemicals, such as heavy metals and arsenic.

Limit sushi intake warn scientists. In 2021, a joint research group from the University of Rovira i Virgili in Catalonia (Spain) and the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute has analyzed different types of sushi for the concentrations of various toxic elements: cadmium, nickel, lead, mercury and methylmercury (a very poisonous form of mercury), arsenic, and iodine.

The alarming concentrations of arsenic and various heavy metals were found in a hundred pieces of sushi, specifically those known as sashimi (raw fish), maki (a seaweed roll stuffed with rice and raw fish) and nigiri (balls of rice with fish or seafood on top).

Japanese diet is full of heavy metalsBased on this study, researchers have determined the right amount and combination of sushi to eat. The safest combination of sushi is eight pieces of salmon-based maki, nigiri or sashimi or maki unagi (eel) for adult populations.

Japanese health authorities recommend limiting eating tuna sushi.

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