- Actress Janelle Monáe just revealed she’s recovering from mercury poisoning.
- She says she got sick due to her pescatarian diet.
- While mercury poisoning from food is rare, you should vary the type of fish you’re eating.
Janelle Monáe is on the mend after developing mercury poisoning from eating too much fish, she says.
The singer shared the news in a recent interview with The Cut. In the interview, Janelle said she developed mercury poisoning after she became a pescatarian. (In case you’re not familiar with it, people who follow a pescatarian diet eat fish as their only source of meat.)
“I started feeling my mortality,” she said. Janelle didn’t dive into that any further—she just dropped the bomb and moved on.
Um, wait—what’s mercury poisoning?
Mercury is an element and a metal that’s found in air, water, and soil, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mercury comes in three forms—elemental mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds.
Microscopic organisms in water and soil can convert elemental and inorganic mercury into an organic mercury compound called methylmercury, which then builds up in the food chain, the CDC says. And, if you eat too much fish that contains methylmercury, you’re at risk of developing mercury poisoning.
Mercury poisoning is serious—the CDC says it can cause damage to the nervous system and, if a woman is pregnant and develops mercury poisoning, her baby can have developmental abnormalities and cerebral palsy.
Acute cases of mercury poisoning are rare, but it’s estimated that high levels of mercury in blood can be found in 5 to 10 percent of Americans, Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., a professor of community health at Ball State University, previously told Women’s Health. This can happen from chronic exposure to methylmercury in fish, which can build up in your body over time.
What are the symptoms of mercury poisoning?
Tbh, the symptoms of mercury poisoning are pretty scary. They can include:
- Cognitive issues such as memory problems
- Impaired motor skills, including tremors, numbness, or lack of coordination
- Shortness of breath
- Neurological symptoms like headaches, insomnia, and dizziness,
- Metallic taste in the mouth or bleeding gums
- Organ failure
So should I quit eating fish?
In short, no. This doesn’t mean you should be scared of eating fish. Instead, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you have two to three servings of fish per week, and mixing up the type of fish you have. You’ll also want to do your best to limit the amount of fish you eat from types that tend to be high in mercury, like tilefish, swordfish, shark, and king mackerel, per FDA data.
Again, mercury poisoning from eating fish is rare. But if you eat a lot of fish and you’re concerned about your mercury levels, talk to your doctor. They can usually perform a simple blood test to see where you’re at.
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