In an observational study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers have found that eating fish during pregnancy may have improve the function and formation of your baby’s brain and shield it from conditions like autism. Although eating fish in this condition has long been discouraged by most health groups, the study has recently proved them wrong.
The researchers studied about 2,000 pregnant women, most of whom ate three servings of fish, like tuna, per week on an average. During delivery, the blood from their umbilical cords was assessed for levels of mercury, a contaminant associated with neurotoxic effects, and DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid to measure how the presence of these components impacted the infant.
Post-birth, the measure of brain development was checked in the women’s children who were between 14 months and five years of age. The results recorded an increase in children’s cognitive development and a decrease in symptoms indicative of autism, when more servings of fish or seafood were consumed during pregnancy.
They came to the following conclusion- Consuming up to 600 grams of fish every week may enhance your child’s IQ score by 2.8; whereas the increasing effects of the benefits reduced when fish consumption was higher than 600 grams. Surprisingly, the protective influence was chiefly stronger when large fatty fish varieties like tuna were eaten. Tuna fish is known to consist of the highest levels of DHA and mercury as compared to other fish variants.
The safe quantity of fish consumption in pregnant women still remains debatable, though the European Food Safety Authority recommends one to four servings. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently revised their stance by encouraging women to eat up to 2-3 portions a week. Both food authorities also highlighted that pregnant women must choose fish variants low in mercury and limit their consumption of those rich in mercury.
The other component, DHA helps build your child’s neurons and cell membranes, making pregnancy the most effective time for brain development, shared study co-author and fellow at CREAL (Centre for research in Environmental Epidemiology), Jordi Julvez.
Although both aspects- whether the role of mercury in the positive brain effects and whether the positive brain effects last past the age of 5, require more research, Julvez and his co-authors said that the present results don’t suggest that having seafood during pregnancy adversely affect the offspring’s brain development.