Thursday, August 13, 2015

Is Fish Healthy to Eat if You're Pregnant?

I was listening to NPR in my car the other day, when a woman who was being interviewed, a conservative Republican who was also an environmentalist, was saying that she was awakened to environmental issues when her obstetrician told her not to eat fish when she was pregnant.
      Any doctor who would say that to a pregnant woman should be either de-licensed or re-educated as to the value of eating fish while pregnant. Her doctor needs to catch up on his reading.
      Medical research, of which there is a great deal on this subject, clearly shows that women who eat a lot of fish during pregnancy give birth to healthier, smarter, more physically coordinated babies. The Seychelles Study and the Avon Study in England followed pregnant women and their children for decades, and the results were unequivocally in favor of pregnant mothers including fish in their diets on a regular basis.
     The Avon Study, in summary: "Researchers followed nearly 12,000 mother/child pairs enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to assess the impact of factors such as diet and lifestyle on health and growth during pregnancy.  Mothers who eat the most seafood during pregnancy -- more than 12 ounces per week -- have children with the highest developmental outcomes.  Researchers conclude advice to limit seafood consumption could be detrimental to optimal fetal development."
     An on-going study in the Seychelles found similar results: "An exhaustive study of 643 children from before birth to 9 years of age shows no detectable risk from the low levels of mercury their mothers were exposed to from eating ocean seafood, according to a study in the May 16, 2003 issue of The Lancet. Children born to mothers-to-be who ate an average of 12 meals of fish a week - about 10 times the average U.S. citizen eats - showed no harmful symptoms.
     The study by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center is the latest in a series of updates on children who have been studied since their birth in 1989 and 1990 in the Republic of the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. The children have been evaluated five times since their birth, and no harmful effects from the low levels of mercury obtained by eating seafood have been detected.
     'Consumption of fish is generally considered healthy for your heart, yet people are hearing that they should be concerned about eating fish because of mercury levels,' says lead author Gary Myers, M.D., a pediatric neurologist. 'We've found no evidence that the low levels of mercury in seafood are harmful. In the Seychelles, where the women in our study ate large quantities of fish each week while they were pregnant, the children are healthy.' "
     When doctors in the US just tell their pregnant patients not to eat fish, they are potentially harming the unborn babies. Fish is full of healthy minerals, vitamins and protein, and the omega 3's in fish are essential to brain development in babies. Perhaps steer them away from shark and large swordfish, and fish that's caught in unclean waters (i.e. not commercially harvested) but the vast majority of it is good for the mother and good for the unborn baby.
     Mercury is in our environment - both caused naturally and from industrial and power plants. It would be great if industry cleaned up their act - in fact it's essential to stop global warming - but it shouldn't keep women from eating good quality commercially caught seafood while pregnant. Cattle that graze on land near coal fired energy plants contain mercury as well - who's warning people about that?

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