Fish During Pregnancy May Help Baby’s Brain
Medical science reserves the right to change its mind.
A case in point: Despite the fact that pregnant women have long been discouraged from eating fish (particularly tuna or tilefish) because of its higher levels of mercury, a new study finds thatdining on fish every week may benefit the brain of their future child -- and may even decrease his or her risk of having some of the early signs of autism.
Researchers at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, Spain followed about 2,000 mothers and their children, beginning in the mothers' first trimester of pregnancy, and continuing until the children turned 5.
The children whose mothers ate three to four servings of fish a week had IQ scores that were 2.8 percent higher than those whose mothers ate less fish. What may be more surprising -- the study also showed that children whose mothers ate an average of 21 ounces of fish every week (about three to four servings) during their pregnancy showed no signs that mercury in fish negatively affected their developmental health, compared with the children whose mothers ate less fish.
Concerns about eating fish during pregnancy arose when some previous findings suggested that prenatal exposure to mercury found in fish may increase the risk of developmental health problems -- a study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that increased consumption of fish containing methyl mercury may be linked with a risk of heart damage and irreversible impairment in brain function in children.
Although more study of the link between fish consumption and brain development is needed, the new results are in line with many earlier studies that have linked eating fish during pregnancy with better outcomes in children.
The findings of the latest study suggest that high levels of a compound called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may outweigh any negative effects of mercury. Fish such as tuna that may have mercury, also hold higher levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that plays a critical role in brain growth and development.
Don't miss this week's Slice of History: Longest Surgery: Feb.4-8, 1951