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Study calls for changes to guidance on eating fish during pregnancy

To summarize: Essential nutrients found in fish can counteract mercury in fish and provide neuroprotection, the researchers report. The new study shows that eating fish during pregnancy can help provide essential nutrients to the developing fetus.

resource: University of Bristol

Mercury levels during pregnancy in women are less likely to adversely affect the development of a child if the mother eats fish, according to a new study led by the University of Bristol.

The findings, which bring together an analysis of more than 4,131 pregnant women in the UK’s 90s Child Study, and a similarly detailed study in the Seychelles, are published in Neurotoxicology.

Importantly, the researchers also found that it doesn’t seem to matter which fish you eat, as the essential nutrients in fish protect against mercury levels in fish. The more important factor is whether the woman eats fish. This is in stark contrast to current advice that warns pregnant women against eating certain fish that are relatively high in mercury.

Although several studies have considered this question, this one looked at two comparative studies that compared populations with mercury levels measured during pregnancy, in which children were frequently followed up during childhood.

The first is a study of the Seychelles population, where nearly all pregnant women are fish eaters.

The second study analysed data from the University of Bristol’s 1990s Children’s Study, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), in a relatively industrialised area of ​​South West England, where fish consumption is far away . Not so often. A summary of the findings of this study has not been published before.

Although it has been known for some time that children born to women who eat fish during pregnancy may benefit in various ways in terms of vision and intelligence, official advice includes warnings against eating certain types of fish with high levels of mercury.

Therefore, some women may stop eating any fish “to be on the safe side.”

Although several studies have considered this question, this one looked at two comparative studies that compared populations with mercury levels measured during pregnancy, in which children were frequently followed up during childhood.Image is in the public domain

Dr Caroline Taylor, senior researcher and co-author of the study, said: “We found that, as long as the mother eats fish, the mother’s mercury levels during pregnancy may not adversely affect the child’s development. If she does not eat fish, then There is some evidence that her mercury levels can have harmful effects on children.

“This may be due to the benefits of a combination of several essential nutrients provided by fish, including long-chain fatty acids, iodine, vitamin D and selenium.”

Professor Jean Golding, co-author and Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics and Perinatal Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, said: “Importantly, the advice of health professionals modifies their warnings about the consumption of certain fish.

“There is no evidence that these fish are harmful, but evidence from various countries suggests that this advice may cause confusion among pregnant women. Pregnancy guidelines should emphasize ‘eat at least two servings of fish per week, one of which should be oily’ – and Omit all warnings that certain fish should not be eaten.”

funds: The current research is funded through the UK’s Medical Research Council and the UK’s Wellcome Trust’s core support to ALSPAC.

About this pregnancy and diet research news

author: Becky Miller
resource: University of Bristol
touch: Becky Miller – University of Bristol
picture: Image is in the public domain

see also

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Original research: Open access.
“Benefits of Fish Intake: Outcomes Regarding Prenatal Mercury Exposure and Child Outcomes in the ALSPAC Prenatal Cohort”, Caroline Taylor et al. Neurotoxicology


The benefits of fish intake: results from the ALSPAC prenatal cohort on prenatal mercury exposure and child outcomes

Health advice to pregnant women about consuming mercury-containing foods led to anxiety and subsequent avoidance of fish during pregnancy. However, seafood contains many nutrients that are essential for children’s growth and development.

Longitudinal studies in Seychelles, where fish is a major component of the diet, did not demonstrate that increased maternal mercury levels had deleterious effects on children’s cognition. Is this also true in developed countries (UK) where fish is not eaten very often?

We reviewed publications to address this topic using data collected from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Total mercury levels were measured in maternal whole blood and umbilical cord tissue. Offspring receive attention throughout childhood, especially their cognitive development. No adverse associations were noted.

Overall IQ and performance IQ, mathematical/scientific reasoning, and birth weight were significantly associated with prenatal mercury levels in fish-eating versus non-fish-eating mothers.

These beneficial findings are similar to those observed in Seychelles, where fish consumption is high and prenatal mercury levels are 10 times higher than US levels. Government advice should be reviewed to highlight the beneficial value of eating fish during pregnancy.

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