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Eating Fish During Pregnancy is Good For Baby

Jan 29, 2015 07:46 PM EST
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Attention expecting mothers: eat your fish! Baby will thank you later. New research has determined that if a woman eats a good helping of fish while pregnant, there are a whole hosts of developmental benefits that can be conferred to an unborn child.

That's at least according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Interestingly, fish are actually a common item on the list of things that expecting mother SHOULD NOT eat. That's because for as long as modern medicine has known about mercury poisoning, experts have been concerned that it would take far less mercury to impact the development of a child.

However, most dietary recommendations always - and understandably so - take the "it's better to be safe than sorry" approach when it comes to pregnancies, and there is little concrete evidence that a little fish every now and then could hurt.

What's more, the research team behind this new work is arguing that the conclusive benefits of eating fish during pregnancy heavily outweigh the perceived risks.

To be sure, the researchers decided to pull together three decades of data on more than 1,500 mothers and their children from the Republic of Seychelles, a island nation in the Indian Ocean.

Past research has predictably shown that you average resident from Seychelles consumes ten time as much fish as people from the United States or Europe, making it the ideal location for measuring the public health impact of low-level mercury exposure.

Hair samples were collected from the pregnant mothers to determine levels of prenatal mercury exposure, and their levels of fatty acid consumption were also measured. Twenty months after their children were born, cognition and motor skill tests were begun. For some subjects, these tests lasted far into their 20s.

Amazingly, after close analysis, prenatal mercury exposure was not linked with lower test scores. What's more, children prenatally exposed to more Omega-3 fatty acids (from fish) outperformed children exposed to mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids (from cooking oils and meats) in motor skill tests.

This supports a theory that Omega-3 not only encourages brain development, but also can help counteract the argued adverse effects of mercury thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties.

"It appears that the relationship between fish nutrients and mercury may be far more complex than previously appreciated," the principle investigator Philip Davidson, from the University of Rochester, explained in a statement. "These findings indicate that there may be an optimal balance between the different inflammatory properties of fatty acids that promote fetal development and that these mechanisms warrant further study."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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