Fish Oil for Baby's Hand-Eye Coordination

Most news outlets push fish oil on us with greater fervor than a Central Park Rastafarian. But whenever I hear fish oil or just plain fish, I immediately think of mercury, chemicals, and pollution. Not to mention I conduct a mini risk-benefit analysis in my head before eating things like sushi or steamed salmon. Sure fish and fish oil is loaded with omega-3, but the level of contamination in seafood always gives me pause, and is the reason why I space out my fish consumption. From Fishing for the Truth, here’s a small refresher on the potential dangers of contaminated fish:
Higher levels of mercury found in mothers who eat more fish have been associated with birth defects, seizures, mental retardation, developmental disabilities, and cerebral palsy.1 This is mostly the result of women having eaten fish when they were pregnant. Scientists believe that fetuses are much more sensitive to mercury exposure than adults, although adults do suffer from varying degrees of brain damage from fish consumption.2 Even the FDA, which normally ignores reports on the dangers of our dangerous food practices, acknowledges that large fish such as shark, swordfish, and yellowfin and bluefin tuna, are potentially dangerous. Researchers are also concerned about other toxins concentrated in fish that can cause brain damage way before the cancers caused by chemical-carrying fish appear.
Dr. Fuhrman takes fish contamination seriously. So seriously, that he actually includes fish in his list of foods mothers should avoid during pregnancy. Take a look. From a previous post entitled Precautions to Take When Pregnant or Nursing:
The real concerns are not microwave ovens, cell phones, and hair dryers. The things we know to be really risky for you and your unborn children are:
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine, including secondhand smoke
  • Alcohol
  • Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs
  • Herbs and high-dose supplements, vitamin A
  • Fish, mollusks and shellfish, sushi (raw fish)
  • Hot tubs and saunas
  • Radiation
  • Household clear, paint thinners
  • Cat litter (because of an infectious disease called toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite found in cat feces)
  • Raw milk and cheese
  • Soft cheese and blue-veined cheeses such as feta, Roquefort, and Brie
  • Artificial colors, nitrates, and MSG
  • Deli meats, luncheon meats, hot dogs, and undercooked meats
So with all this being said, a new study that touts the benefits of consuming fish oil during pregnancy is enough to make anyone say, “What the—?” Well it’s true. Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News reports Australian researchers have determined toddlers whose mothers took fish oil supplements during pregnancy developed superior hand-eye coordination. Why? Well those omega-3’s of course:
"Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly referred to as 'fish oil,' are essential nutrients for human health," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine. He was not involved in the study…

… It will take more research to clarify the optimal dose of omega-3 fatty acids, and the long-term health effects of supplementation during pregnancy, Katz said. "But we know enough already to conclude that fish oil from supplements is generally a good idea, during pregnancy especially. I routinely advise 1 gram, twice daily, of fish oil to my pregnant patients -- and my non-pregnant patients, too."
I don’t think Dr. Fuhrman would agree with Katz’s fish oil recommendation, especially if that particular brand of supplement ran the risk of containing mercury or some other contaminate. So this begs the question, are we stuck with fish? Or are there other sources of omega-3’s that don’t potentially expose mothers or unborn children to harmful chemicals and compounds? Yes. Check out what Dr. Fuhrman recommends in this post, Dr. Fuhrman's Anti-ADHD Plan:
Flax seeds and walnuts are rich sources of beneficial but hard-to-find short-chain omega-3 fats, plus they are rich in lignans, minerals, and vitamins. Until recently, the primary source of DHA dietary supplements was fish oil. However, new products are available that contain DHA from algae, the fish’s original source. Unlike fish oils, the algae-derived DHA, grown in the laboratory, is free of chemical pollutants and toxins that may be present in some fish oil-based brands.
Now I’m no doctor, in fact I’m just a lowly blogger with a Marketing degree, but if I had to pick, I’d go for the contaminate-free option every time. How about you?
1. Shamlaye, C. F., D. O. Marsh, G. J. Myers, et al. 1995. The Seychelles Child Development Study on neurodevelopmental outcomes in children following in utero exposure to methylmercury from a maternal fish diet: background and demographics. Neurotoxicology 16 (4): 597-612; Rylander L., U. Stromberg, and L. Hagmar. 1996. Dietary intake of fish contaminated with persistent organochlorine compounds in relation to low birthweight. Scand. J. Work Environ. Health 2 (4): 260-66; Does methylmercury have a role in causing developmental disabilities in children? 2000. Environ. Health Perspect. 108 (supp.3): 413-20.

2. Clarkson, T.W. 1997. The toxicology of mercury. Crit. Rev. Clin. Lab. Sci. 34(4):369-403.
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Preview - March 31, 2008 1:15 AM

Fish oil supplements have on the bottle, 'purified of mercury and other contaminents' these days. :)

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