Higher levels of fish consumption during pregnancy linked to brain developmental benefits.
New research from Spain is indicating the consumption of fish during pregnancy can lead to benefits in the brain development of the child, according to Reuters. The study looked at almost 2,000 pairs of mothers and children, following them from pregnancy through the child’s fifth birthday.
The findings revealed that eating more fish while pregnant led to improved brain function of the children, as compared to the mothers who ate less fish. The results also show that even at consuming 21 ounces of fish per week, there was no indication of mercury having an negative effect on the brain development.
Lead author Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, said, “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.”
The US Food and Drug Administration recommends pregnant women should eat fish, but no more than 12 ounces per week, due to concerns over ingesting pollutants that may harm the fetus. This new data suggest that limit may be too stringent.
The study involved data from the Spanish Childhood and Environment Project that looked at women in their first trimester from 2004 to 2008, in four provinces in Spain. The women were tested for vitamin D and iodine levels in their blood. Additionally, the core blood was tested after delivery for fetal exposure to mercury and PCB pollutants.
The children were tested for Asperger Syndrome traits and cognitive abilities at 14 months and again at five years of age.
The average fish consumption of the women in the study was about three servings per week, approximately 500 g. With each 10 g increase in fish consumption, the team noted improved test scores, up to about the 600 g mark, but did not see any increased improvement after that level of consumption.
Another big takeaway from the study was the finding that the increase in fish consumption was linked to lower signs of autism-spectrum traits in the children. Dr. Ashley Roman, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York said the study was interesting and shed new light on the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy. She added, “They’re able to correlate the fish consumption with protection from autism and I think that is potentially a very important finding.”
The experts still recommend women avoid the fish with longer lifespans that allow them to accumulate the highest concentrations of mercury, like catfish, shark, swordfish and giant mackerel.