Students Are Overdosing on Dangerous Amounts of Tuna


That’s not how you expected that headline to end, is it? Me, either, but this is where we are in America today – college kids eating so much of the cheapest food they can find that they’re winding up needing medical intervention they can’t afford.

Tuna, in case you fall into this category of unaware, contains the heavy metal mercury, which is toxic in fairly small quantities. It also accumulates in the body, which means that eating too much, too close together can result in mercury poisoning, which shows up as poor cognitive function, blindness, and impaired lung function.


Researchers out of the University of California, Santa Cruz published a study in Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry that revealed many collage students are unaware of the issues with eating too much tuna – and they’re eating a lot, based on the mercury levels in their bodies.


54% of students reported eating tuna at least three times per week, a frequency that exceeds the maximum dose of methylmercury that the EPA calls “safe.” 7% of students surveyed reported eating more than 20 meals a week that contained tuna, and the tests on their hair revealed mercury that rose to “a level of concern.”

Wow. I mean, that’s a lot of tuna.


The lead researcher was inspired to conduct the study after hearing her students talk about how much tuna they ate.

“I’ve been dumbfounded when students have told me they eat tuna every day. Their lack of knowledge about the risk of exposure to mercury is surprising.”

Over 99% of the study participants reported low knowledge and low confidence in their survey answers regarding the potential danger and toxicity of tuna – they thought it was safe to eat 2 or 3 times the amount of tuna deemed “safe” (which is just two to three servings per week).


“It’s not a large sample size, but only 1 out of 107 students surveyed had a high level of knowledge as well as confidence in that knowledge.”

The kids in the study hadn’t yet reached alarming levels of mercury exposure, but they were at a point where it was recommended that they limit what they were eating.

The team worked with UCSC administrators and the dining hall to put up signs that will hopefully educate students about how much tuna to eat in the future.

And now you know.