While the breast is best motto has been touted for some time, a new Danish study shows that higher fish consumption and longer breastfeeding are linked to better physical and cognitive development in infants, according to a Harvard Medical School press release.
The new research emphasizes the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and compounds in breast milk.
The study team looked at 25,446 children born to mothers in Denmark from 1997-2002. Their prenatal diet was assessed through detailed questionnaires given during pregnancy.
Moms were asked about their breastfeeding at six months postpartum, and about child development at six months (could the child hold up his/her head, sit with a straight back, sit unsupported, respond to sound or voices, imitate sounds, or crawl), and at 18 months postpartum (could the child climb stairs, remove his/her socks, drink from a cup, write or draw, use word-like sounds).
The children whose mothers ate the most fish during pregnancy were more likely to have better motor and cognitive skills. Longer duration of breastfeeding was also associated with better infant development.
In the US, women have been advised to restrict their fish intake due to mercury contamination concerns. The FDA's Center for Food Safety provides guidance on which fish to avoid completely, such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, and mackerel, which to limit, and which fish are safe to eat. The Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector provides information on the best fish choices for the environment and your health.
In the Danish study, women ate mostly fish that have low mercury content.
Emily Oken, lead author of the study, is quoted in the release: "These results, together with findings from other studies of women in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, provide additional evidence that moderate maternal fish intake during pregnancy does not harm child development and may on balance be beneficial."
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.