Eating More Fish During Pregnancy Improves Infant Intellect
Study results counter government advice for pregnant woman to limit fish.
New research to be published in the April 2008 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology adds to the groundswell of new, independent science that shows moms who eat more than the U.S. government recommended amount of fish during pregnancy have the brainiest babies.
The Harvard Medical School-led study followed over 300 mother-child pairs to determine the effect on babies of eating different amounts of fish during pregnancy. Moms who fueled up on more than two servings of fish per week during their second trimester of pregnancy had three-year-olds with the most advanced motor skills. Moms who limited their seafood to two servings (12 ounces) of seafood per week, as recommended by several U.S government agencies, saw no cognitive benefit for their children when compared with other children whose mothers ate more than 12 ounces of fish weekly during pregnancy.
“Even before this new study came out, there was significant scientific evidence that moms should be encouraged to eat at least two weekly servings of a variety of fish during pregnancy” said Mary A. Harris, PhD, RD an expert in fetal nutrition from Colorado State University. “Now the case is stronger yet that limiting the amount of seafood you eat while pregnant can give your baby a disadvantage from day one. The tide is beginning to turn from a focus on trace amounts of mercury to the overall beneficial effects of eating fish.”
Results show pregnant women who ate more fish, naturally, had higher mercury levels. Nonetheless, researchers observed no overall adverse outcomes among children whose moms ate the most fish. These findings are consistent with a 2007 landmark study of nearly 12,000 mothers and children in the United Kingdom. Researchers with the National Institutes of Health found optimal child development among mothers who ate more than 12 ounces of seafood per week, suggesting that government advice to limit seafood consumption could be detrimental. Similarly, research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently found the typical American diet, low in seafood, is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and may pose a risk to babies’ developing eyes and brains.
This new science comes at a time when women are confused about the benefits and misinformed about the concerns of eating fish, which contributes to seafood-deficient diets. Inadequate intake of fish is confirmed by data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which shows 90 percent of women are consuming fish less than twice a week.
For more than 60 years, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its members have provided American families with the variety of sustainable seafood essential to a healthy diet. For more information visit: www.AboutSeafood.com.