A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that the developmental benefits brought on by a mother consuming fish while pregnant may outweigh the potential risk of mercury poisoning to the fetus.
Current guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limit consumption of fish to twice a week for pregnant women. This is because historically scientists and doctors were concerned that the amount of mercury in fish may cause harm during fetal development. However, developmental problems in the fetus or infant have never been conclusively linked to fish consumption during pregnancy.
The research was coordinated between the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, Ulster University in Belfast in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Seychelles Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. This was one of the largest studies in scientific history, with over 1,500 mothers and children taking part for over two decades.
Various neurological tests were performed on children since the age of 20 months, and specimens were collected from the mothers. Specialists found that pre-birth mercury exposure is not associated with lower test scores, and as the kids grew into adulthood, no link between the consumption of fish and neurological impairment was found.
The islands of Seychelles are located in the Indian Ocean, and residents are known to eat fish up to 10 times more than residents of the United States or United Kingdom.
In fact, researchers believe that the omega-3 fatty acid, which fish are rich in, may counteract any inflammation that mercury may cause. Children of mothers who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids performed better on some tests.
Senior author of the study, Dr. Philip Davidson, professor emeritus at the University of Rochester, says, “It seems that the relationship between fish nutrients and mercury may be far more intricate than formerly appreciated. These discoveries show that there may be an ideal harmony between the different inflammatory properties of fatty acids that promote fetal development and that these systems warrant further study.”
S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, http://Facebook.com/TheReporterandTheGirl and visit her website at http://www.TheReporterandTheGirl.com