Pregnancy, Babies, and Fish

If you’re pregnant Dr. Fuhrman suggests avoiding seafood. Why? Mercury contamination. Here, I’ll let him explain:
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.
And a new study reveals the catch-22 that is seafood. It seems fish can help babies’ cognitive function, but mercury can hurt it. Reuters reports:
"Recommendations for fish consumption during pregnancy should take into account the nutritional benefits of fish as well as the potential harms from mercury exposure," Dr. Emily Oken of Harvard Medical School in Boston and her colleagues write in the May 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Advisories on mercury contamination of certain types of large, long-lived fish -- including tuna and swordfish -- have raised concerns about seafood consumption during pregnancy, Oken and her team note. On the other hand, fish are also the chief dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, substances key to early brain development, they add.

To better understand the risks and benefits of fish consumption, Oken and her team surveyed 341 mothers about their intake of fish during the second trimester of pregnancy, and then had their children complete a battery of tests of cognitive function at 3 years of age.

On average, women reported eating 1.5 servings of fish each week while they were pregnant. The amount of mercury the women had in their red blood cells was directly related to the amount of fish they ate. Children's test scores rose with the amount of fish their mothers had consumed, but those whose mothers had more mercury in their bodies performed less well on the tests.
I think this is one of those better to be safe, than sorry situations—skip the fish.
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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Chris - May 28, 2008 8:29 AM

You could skip water too - but don't. The safest thing is to eat the right amount of a fish that is low in mercury and other contaminants. This is one of those areas where abstinence over judicious choice is simply harmful.

Here are some helpful links:

Sara - May 28, 2008 10:15 PM

How about skip the fish and take DHA? Get the good stuf without the risk.

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