Pregnant women face a quandary when it comes to eating fish. On the one hand, consumption of Omega-3-rich fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and cod by moms-to-be is associated with multiple benefits for their little ones. These include better fetal growth, better immunity in infancy and better fine motor skills in childhood.* [i],[ii],[iii] But fish can be a source of mercury, which is no good for mamas or babies.
EATING FISH DURING PREGNANCY
The question is: If you’re expecting, do the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks? That’s just what a newly published study of 38,581 pregnant women set to find out. The answer: Yes, as long as you don’t eat too much. The study found that at age five, children born to moms who ate a moderate amount of fish (up to 400 grams a week) had improved linguistic skills, indicating fish consumption benefits cognitive function.*[iv],[v]
One interesting thing about the study is that the researchers were actually looking for a decline in verbal skills of children whose mothers ate a lot of fish, thanks to mercury exposure. But they didn’t find it. Instead they found a benefit, as long as the child’s mother didn’t eat more than 400 grams of fish per week.* (That’s fourteen ounces, or a little under five 3-ounce servings of salmon.)
The take-away seems to be that you can eat fish four days a week without reaching what researchers called “the tipping point where the beneficial effects of seafood can be outweighed by the adverse effects of mercury.”
FISH OIL AND PREGNANCY
You may be wondering, "Should I take fish oil supplements during pregnancy?" The answer is yes. The safest way for pregnant women to load up on Omega-3 fatty acids is to take a high-quality fish oil supplement that has been tested by an independent agency and found free of contaminants. With plenty of Omega-3s and no mercury or other heavy metals, it’s the best of both worlds. Omega-3-rich plant foods such as walnuts, chia seeds and seaweed, or a flaxseed oil supplement, are also good options.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
[i] Grootendorst-van Mil NH, et al. Clin Nutr. 2017 Jun 10. pii: S0261-5614(17)30221-2.
[ii] Imhoff-Kunsch B, et al. Pediatrics. 2011 Sep;128(3):e505-12.
[iii] Hibbeln JR, et al. Lancet. 2007 Feb 17;369(9561):578-85.
[iv] Cutcliffe T. Nutraingredients. 2017 Nov 9. https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2017/11/09/Benefits-of-moderate-fish-consumption-in-pregnancy-may-outweigh-mercury-effects-suggests-study
[v] Vejrup K, et al. Environment International. 2018 Jan;110:71-79.