Friday, April 29, 2011

More Reasons to Eat Fresh Fish during Pregnancy

The consumption of fish during pregnancy has been hotly debated and deeply studied in the past decade. Although some fish contain high levels of mercury, the general consensus is that the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the dangers of the mercury. Canned tuna and fish with high levels of mercury like shark are still not recommended. However, new studies reveal that the omega 3 fatty acids derived from fish have a long list of benefits for developing babies and their mothers.

Obesity, preterm birth and postpartum depression may seem like unrelated issues. However, scientists have revealed that all of these issues could occur less often if pregnant women eat more fresh fish.

Increasingly, obesity is being linked to diet in the womb and this new study out of France is no exception. In a study of over 1,000 mothers and their children up to age three, researchers discovered that the children of mothers who ate the highest amounts of omega 3 rich foods were less likely to be obese.

Another study released this month provides evidence that a diet high in fish can lower the risk of preterm labor in women who are most likely to experience it.  A total of 852 women at a higher risk for preterm labor were studied. Women who reported eating the most fish (generally 2-3 times a week) were 40% more likely to go to full term. Despite the positive results, the researchers can’t say if fish was the reason for the decreases, whether it was a component in fish or if the women who ate more fish had something else in common.

In the beginning of April, researchers who sought to study the effects of omega 3 fatty acids on the brain of pregnant women found a lowered incidence of postpartum depression. Dr. Michelle Price Judge, who led the study, previously completed research that made a connection between DHA and baby brain growth (DHA is a type of an omega 3 fatty acid). In this recent study of 82 pregnant women, those who took a 200 mg DHA supplement five days a week, equivalent to ½ a piece of salmon, as opposed to a placebo pill were less likely to experience feelings like a loss of self and anxiety.

In addition to these recent discoveries, fish is also a significant source of B12, which could help reduce the risk of colic in newborns.

Despite the variety of positive effects from eating fish, it’s important to avoid canned tuna, which Consumer Reports discovered in 2010 contained unsafe levels of mercury. In addition, avoid fish like shark, swordfish, and tilefish which contain the highest levels of mercury. Following those precautions, enjoying fish two to three times a week is a great practice during pregnancy.

Have you been eating fish?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Reduced Risk of Childhood Obesity, Recurrent Breast Cancer, Eye Disease and Stroke [PRNewswire]
Types of PUFAs in Pregnancy Linked to Risk of Obesity in Offspring at Age 3 [FatsofLife]
Fish-eaters show lower risk of preterm birth [World Bulletin]
Study: Omega-3 consumed during pregnancy curbs risk for postpartum depression symptoms [Eurekalert]
Consumer Reports Warns Pregnant Women Against Canned Tuna [Time]
Mercury in Fish: Cause for Concern? [PregnancyWeekly]
Vitamin B12 in the Womb Reduces Risk of Colic [PWBlog]