Selenium in Seafood
What and where is selenium?
- Selenium is an essential nutrient. Small doses are healthy and necessary, but higher doses can be toxic.
- Selenium is in many foods, including meat (especially organ meats), cereals, grains, and eggs, and some dietary supplements.
- Fish and shellfish can be excellent sources of selenium, and are part of a healthy diet.
- Selenium is naturally present in the environment, though levels vary greatly.
- Selenium can also build up in the environment due to human activity, such as certain agricultural practices.
- Selenium levels in fish have not been a concern in most areas of California.
What is the health concern for humans?
- Too much selenium can cause health problems, such as hair and nail loss, gastrointestinal distress, dizziness, and tremors.
Should I still eat fish?
- Yes! Low-contaminant fish are an important part of a well-balanced diet.
- Fish are a good source of protein and vitamins, and a primary source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- Eating two servings of fish per week is good for you, according to the American Heart Association.
- If you are pregnant, eating low-contaminant fish may help your baby’s brain develop.
Can I reduce selenium levels in fish?
- No. There is no special way to clean or prepare fish to reduce their selenium levels.
How can I reduce my risk?
- Only eat the fish fillet (meat). Don’t eat the internal organs of fish and shellfish (“guts,” crab “butter,” and lobster “tomalley”), as these may contain other harmful chemicals.
- If you catch your own fish, follow the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) fish advisories for California water bodies.
- If you are on a high-selenium diet, or use dietary supplements that include selenium, pay special attention to fish advisories based on selenium.
Where can I learn more?