Fish Consumption During Pregnancy: Study Shows Generous Servings Of Fish Beneficial For Babies’ Brain Development

Heather Tooley - Author

Dec. 27 2017, Updated 2:57 a.m. ET

Fish consumption during pregnancy has shown researchers that the benefits are long-lasting for children’s brains. A large study conducted in Spain reveals that positive results occur when mothers eat three large servings of fish each week while pregnant.

Fox News reports that the study examining fish consumption during pregnancy yielded amazing results.

2,000 mother-child pairs were followed by researchers from the first trimester of pregnancy through the child’s fifth birthday, according to the report. It was concluded that improved brain function was evident in children whose mothers consumed the most fish while pregnant, versus children of mothers who consumed the least.

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No sign of mercury or other pollutants was found in women who averaged eating 600 grams, or 21 ounces, of fish a week during pregnancy. Despite negative effects of eating fish while expecting, the fish consumption during pregnancy study showed the opposite.

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The study’s lead author, Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, said seafood is one of the healthiest foods for brain development.

“Seafood is known to be an important source of essential nutrients for brain development, but at the same time accumulates mercury from the environment, which is known to be neurotoxic,” Julvez said.

2014 guidelines set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s encouraged pregnant women to eat fish, but no more than 12 ounces per week. This was an attempt to avoid any potential harmful side effects from consuming too much fish.

The European Food Safety Authority recently endorsed fish consumption from 150 g to 600 g per week during pregnancy, Julvez and colleagues mentioned in the American Journal of Epidemiology. This was based on scientific opinion. Julvez notes that the study didn’t observe increased benefits by eating over 595 g (21 ounces) of fish a week.

Julvez and her team of researchers write that more should be studied to help give pregnant women accurate guidance. Fish consumption during pregnancy is still murky and the lead author explains that more needs to be understood on the matter.

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Data in the study was analyzed from the Spanish Childhood and Environment Project. It was a “large population study that recruited women in their first trimester of pregnancy, in four provinces of Spain, between 2004 and 2008,” according to the report.

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In an article published by Medical Daily, a bit more is offered from the study. Dr. Ashley Roman, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, said the fish study with pregnant women showed signs of warding off autism.

“They’re able to correlate the fish consumption with protection from autism and I think that is potentially a very important finding,” Roman said.

This finding alone might capture the interest of scientists studying autism and how it can better prevent unborn children from getting the disorder.

In spite of the good news, Roman doesn’t recommend people eat certain kinds of fish that have higher mercury levels. These types of fish include catfish, shark, swordfish, and giant mackerel. The doctor added that “typically the larger fish that have longer lifespans and they tend to concentrate more mercury in their tissue.”

American guidelines concerning fish consumption are deemed “stringent” by Julvez. She thinks the health recommendations for fish should be loosened since benefits of fish consumption during pregnancy demonstrates in the study that it’s highly beneficial for the development of babies’ brains. A lot of people fear eating too much fish during pregnancy because they’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s not healthy for mothers or their unborn children.

[Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images]


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