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The Healthfulness of Seafood for Sensitive Populations


<ol> <LI>To develop rapid analytical methods for measuring xenobiotics in farm-raised and recreationally-caught fish. These methods will benefit food processors, government regulators and health departments that routinely test for pollutants in fish tissue. Improved testing methods will lead to better fish consumption advisories and more informed consumer choices. <LI>To determine the rate of clearance of environmental pollutants and the status of nutrients from fish using human clinical trials. For this objective, we would also determine the influence of foods and food ingredients on the absorption and clearance of environmental pollutants that are found in seafood. Improving our understanding about the bioavailability of mercury will help to determine human exposure and the toxicological consequences of exposure. <LI>To determine the effectiveness of specific information interventions that target safe seafood choices and consumption behaviors (specifically wallet cards that explain mercury/PCB risks and omega-3 fatty acid benefits) on consumer understanding of and confidence in making healthful fish and seafood choices regarding mercury contamination and fatty acids. The goal of this research will be to specifically design strategies and methods of communication that are most effective at increasing the awareness and understanding of healthful seafood choices. <LI>To measure the impact of educational interventions involving seafood healthfulness on the knowledge and beliefs about seafood risks and benefits, attitudes toward seafood consumption, and behaviors of consumers regarding purchase and consumption of different seafood species. The goal of this research will be to understand how different communication strategies can effectively increase awareness for different segments of the consumer population, particularly sensitive populations (women that will become pregnant, who are pregnant, and nursing women) about healthful and harmful fish species, as well as how these communications can affect risk perception and behavior changes. These interventions will be delivered over the Internet or directly to consumers in grocery stores, aquariums, restaurants, maternity wards, WIC clinics, or at State and county fairs.

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Non-Technical Summary: Childbearing-aged women should make an informed decision when consuming seafood, especially if they are pregnant, nursing or going to become pregnant. An informed consumer will choose to eat seafood but also to select fish species that are higher in healthy nutrients and lower in pollutants. The research/engagement efforts outlined in this proposal will: improve the methods that are used to measure pollutants in seafood; determine the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of chemical contaminants; assess the nutritional status of women that consume the nutrients contained in seafood; and develop effective intervention strategies that are directed at healthcare professionals and consumers. <P> Approach: Various experiments will be conducted as part of this research program. Experiment 1 - Rapid Methods: We have previously validated the use of thermal decomposition, (gold) amalgamation/atomic absorption spectrophotometry (TDA/AAS) for the rapid measurement of total mercury in fish tissue. This technology now permits us to explore the possibility of measuring mercury in a biopsy plug or a fin clip and eliminate the need to sacrifice fish when developing fish consumption advisories. Experiment 2 - Bioavailability: Our previous research has demonstrated that foods and food ingredients may affect the bioaccessibility of mercury from fish. While these studies are in their early stages, there appears to be binding between food chemicals and mercury which may alter bioavailability. We plan to investigate whether this chemical interaction increases or decreases the bioavailability of mercury. We will investigate this through clinical trials (with Caucasian, Asian, and African-American women that have elevated hair mercury concentrations) whether routine consumption of commercially-available fish species (i.e., farmed salmon or farmed tilapia) will alter plasma omega-3 fatty acids (i.e., eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)) or mercury status. Experiment 3 - We will investigate the effective delivery of fish consumption advisories, by delivering an online training to dietitians and nurses which encourages sensitive populations to consume healthful fish species. Outcomes will be measured to determine whether our engagement efforts lead to increased knowledge and awareness of healthful properties of fish species and confidence in identifying safer, less contaminated seafood choices, as well as encourage sustained positive behavior change. Experiment 4 - We will investigate the impacts of educational interventions about seafood contamination on attitudes toward specific seafood options, awareness of contamination issues, and long-term seafood purchasing/consumption behaviors within sensitive consumer populations. A variety of educational interventions will be designed and administered to the target audience, including but not limited to an informational wallet card and fact sheets. Several social marketing techniques such as social pressure, targeted social interactions, and classroom education opportunities will also be tested to understand what effect these techniques have on building awareness and changing behaviors about species selection and amount of fish consumed. Outcomes will be measured using survey research and focus groups that employ a pretest-posttest design to capture changes in attitude, knowledge, and behaviors over time as a result of exposure to information, as well as in-depth interviews.

Santerre, Charles
Purdue University
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