Eating Tuna Can Weaken Your Immune System

April 23, 2016

Eating seafood tainted with a class of common, long-lasting environmental contaminants can weaken the human body’s ability to defend itself against toxic substances, a new study has found.

A team of California scientists, led by Amro Hamdoun of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, tested how exposure to 10 persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, affected an important cellular protein found in most animals and plants.

The pollutants, all detected in the past both in humans and in yellowfin tuna, included the upholstery flame retardant PBDE; pesticides such as dieldrin and DDT; and PCB, an industrial chemical.

The protein, called P-gp, usually ejects toxins from the body. But the team found that all 10 pollutants weakened P-gp’s protective function. One form of flame retardant, PBDE-100, bound itself to the protein and blocked it from transporting the toxin out of the body cell.

“When we eat contaminated fish, we could be reducing the effectiveness of this critical defense system in our bodies,” said Hamdoun in a statement.

The yellowfin tuna used in the study were caught in the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is one of the most popular fish served as sushi, with fishermen catching more than 1.1 million tons of yellowfin each year.

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