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Add This to Your List of Reasons to Keep Shellfish Off Your Plate

shrimp is not vegan

Shellfish and other animal foods may contain metals that increase the risk of cancer.


Fish and shellfish may contain contaminants that are detrimental to health. Most of us already are familiar with certain fish containing high levels of mercury, which is especially detrimental to children and pregnant women.

Another metal that may be lurking in shellfish is cadmium, a metal that could increase the risk of endometrial cancer.

According to a research study at the University of Missouri, women who have increased levels of cadmium could have as much as a 22% increased risk of endometrial cancer.

"Cadmium is an estrogen-mimicking chemical, meaning it imitates estrogen and its effects on the body," said lead author Jane McElroy, Ph.D. "Endometrial cancer has been associated with estrogen exposure. Because cadmium mimics estrogen, it may lead to an increased growth of the endometrium, contributing to an increased risk of endometrial cancer."

While smoking is the most critical lifestyle risk factor to eliminate to reduce cadmium levels, there are also certain foods that contribute as well. Organ meats such as liver and kidneys contain high levels, but these aren’t the most widely eaten of foods even among omnivores.

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However, shellfish is a common food and may also be particularly susceptible to carrying contaminants.

Cadmium enters the waterways through solid waste dumping. Invertebrate animals, which includes crustacean such as lobster and crabs and bivalves like clams and oysters, tend to accumulate metallic cadmium in large amounts because it is inadequately filtered through and released.

Thankfully, there are plenty of options for vegans when it comes to mimicking seafood in recipes.
One of my favorite crab cake replacement recipes is from One Green Planet, which uses artichokes in place of crab flakes.

Feeling shrimpy?

Pick up a package of Vegan shrimp at your local veg-friendly store (or online) and make a Southern shrimp and grits or a delicious shrimp scampi.

Journal Reference:
Jane A. McElroy, et al. Cadmium exposure and endometrial cancer risk: A large midwestern U.S. population-based case-control study. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (7): e0179360 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0179360

Additional Resources:
PETA - Top 10 Reasons to Keep Shrimp Off Your Plate
Seafood Safety: Occurrence of Chemical Contaminants in Seafood and Variability of Contaminant Levels