Boost your baby’s brain power: eat fish during pregnancy

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Boost your baby’s brain power: eat fish during pregnancy
Boost your baby’s brain power: eat fish during pregnancy

A large new study by Spanish researchers has found that when mothers eat three large servings of fish each week during pregnancy it may benefit their offspring’s’ brains for years to come. In addition, even when women averaged 600 grams (21 ounces) of fish weekly during pregnancy, there was no sign that mercury or other pollutants associated with fish were having a negative effect that offset the apparent benefits. The findings were published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The European Food Safety Authority recently issued a scientific opinion endorsing 150 grams (5 ounces) to 600 grams (20 ounces) of fish weekly during pregnancy. The study authors note that seafood consumption during pregnancy is thought to be beneficial for child neuropsychological development; however, to the best of their knowledge, no large studies focused on high fatty fish consumption have analyzed the association by type of seafood. The study group comprised 1,892 mother-child pairs at age 14 months and 1,589 mother-child pairs at the age of 5 years in Spain. The study ran from 2004 through 2008. Bayley and McCarthy scales and the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test were used to evaluate neuropsychological development. The results were subjected to statistical analysis to adjust for sociodemographic characteristics and further adjusted for umbilical cord blood mercury or long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid levels. Overall, consumption of seafood above the recommended limit of 340 grams per /week was associated with 10 grams per week increases in neuropsychological scores. Types of fish were compared. In addition to lean fish, consumption of large fatty fish had a positive association with neuropsychological scores. Offspring of women with the highest consumption a (more than 238 grams [8 ounces] per week) had an adjusted increase of 2.29 points in McCarthy general cognitive score. Similar findings were observed for the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test.

The authors concluded that consumption of large fatty fish during pregnancy presents moderate child neuropsychological benefits, including improvements in cognitive functioning and some protection from autism spectrum disorders.

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