Eating 12 ounces of fish per week does more to promote than inhibit healthy brain development, despite government warnings that pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid fish because of mercury contamination.
Update: This new recommendation has been criticized and disputed. For details click here.
That's the word today from the Maternal Nutrition Group, a coalition comprised of professors of obstetrics and doctors of nutrition from across the country, in partnership with the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition.
Their advice is nearly opposite of that of the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, which says pregnant women and mothers should avoid mercury in their diet because the toxic metal can lead to brain damage, such as reduced IQ.
But avoiding fish altogether leads to an inadequate uptake of omega-3 fatty acids -- necessary for optimal brain development -- according to the coalition of private doctors. Just 10% of women of are eating enough fish, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Part of the reason eating 12 ounces per week of fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel is considered by this group to be safe is because the selenium also found in fish seems to counteract the mercury, and prevent the body from accumulating in the mother's blood and milk.
We know from our research that pregnant women are concerned about eating seafood and hope that our science-based recommendations will give women who are pregnant, nursing or planning to become pregnant, the confidence that they are doing the right thing for their health -- and the health of their children -- by including fish in their diets, said Dr. Roger Newman, professor and Vice Chairman for Academic Affairs & Womens Health Research Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medical University of South Carolina.
Mothers who are still concerned about mercury would be wise to choose fish carefully. Many species that are lower on the aquatic food chain contain no or very little mercury (or other contaminants, like PCBs) and yet still contain high levels of Omeg-3 fatty acids. Some of those fish, according to Oceans Alive, include:
For more information on choosing the best fish to eat, visit this Oceans Alive Web site.
For more information about the study, click here.
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