Here's how that can happen.

By Kimberly Truong
Feb 06, 2020 @ 1:30 pm

Janelle Monáe says she recently had a health scare over her diet. 

In an interview with New York magazine's The Cut, Monáe revealed she's trying to figure out the right time to have a child, but she's still recovering from mercury poisoning — which she attributed to her pescatarian diet. 

"I started feeling my mortality," she said.

A pescatarian diet is a plant-based diet with the addition of fish and seafood. Some pescatarians eat dairy and eggs, while others limit animal products to just fish and seafood. 

Mercury occurs naturally in air, water, and soil, and all humans are exposed to mercury on some level, but mercury poisoning occurs when someone is exposed to too much mercury, either through the diet or environment. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, "Some people may be exposed to higher levels of mercury if they have a diet high in fish, shellfish, or marine mammals."

Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, registered dietitian and author of The Better Period Food Solution, says that although rare, it's possible to for someone following a pescatarian diet to get mercury poisoning. 

"It happens because mercury, a toxic yet naturally occurring metal, tends to build up over time in the body which may lead to dangerous symptoms affecting the brain and the nervous system," she tells InStyle. "While the kidneys and liver are naturally designed to filter and flush mercury and other toxic substances from the body, these organs may become sluggish overtime if constantly bombarded with work, allowing more opportunity for build up and toxicity."

But if you're a pescatarian, or considering a more fish-rich diet, Beckerman says there's no need to worry. 

"Because fish is part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle, don’t stop eating fish because you are scared of mercury poisoning," she says.

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Instead, check up on your fish options and tend towards the ones low in methylmercury, which she says is the form of mercury found in fish and is most easily absorbed through the GI tract. Beckerman recommends The Seafood Nutrition Partnership as a resource.

But at the end of the day, if you're worried about your fish intake, consult your doctor. 

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