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Moms that Eat Fish Low in Mercury Produce Smart Kids, Study Finds

Fish Fish:  A Baby’s Brain Food?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the methods some pregnant women use to turn their soon-to-be born babies into baby Einstein’s.  Some of them follow the research that says playing classical music from the likes of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven stimulates a baby’s brain development.  Others say just talking to your pre-born is the secret to baby braniacs. 

Of course, these methods have never been proven fail-safe methods; it’s very debatable as to their effectiveness from one case to another.  What isn’t debatable, though, is the adverse effect mercury has on a pre-born baby’s development.  Study after study links the level of mercury in a pregnant women’s blood stream to children’s learning disabilities and impaired brain development.  In light of this, many pregnant women swear off fish.  Because various fish are known to contain large to trace amounts of mercury, many pregnant women go the full nine months without eating a single thing culled from the ocean.  But new evidence suggests this might not be such a good idea, particularly when it comes to a child’s brain development.

Researchers came to this conclusion after taking blood samples from 350 pregnant women during their second trimester, asking them what their diets were like in those three months.  By the time their child turned 3 years of age, the formerly pregnant women had their kids take various tests for the researchers, tests that measured their speaking abilities and motor skills.  What they found was that the children with the best scores had mothers who ate fish regularly during their second trimester (more than twice a week). But findings like this fly in the face of U.S. health officials’ caution to pregnant mothers – avoid eating more than two servings of fish a week (i.e. more than 12 ounces).  The findings are published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

So, what’s a pregnant mother to do?  Well, one thing researchers suggest pregnant women not do is take health officials’ caution lightly; fish like mackerel, shark, red snapper and orange roughy have high amounts of mercury that pose risks to a baby’s overall development.  Just as the researchers’ findings indicated the more fish pregnant women ate the better their children performed on tests, it also showed that the higher mercury levels were, the worse their children performed on tests.  While not all of the women with high mercury levels ate fish, a quarter of those with high mercury levels did.

Now, this probably sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth – eat more fish and you get smarter children; eat more fish and you run the risk of infecting your pre-born kids with mercury poisoning.  Which is it?  The key is to find fish that have low levels of mercury but high levels of omega-3 fatty acids – the fats believed responsible for healthy brain development.

While fish with high levels of mercury tend to also have high levels of omega-3s, there are fish that provide the best of both worlds.  One of them is salmon.  Salmon contains a .01 parts per million mercury level (ppm) and nearly two grams of omega-3s in a three ounce piece.  A close second is herring, containing .04 parts per million of mercury and roughly two grams of omega-3s for every three ounce piece.  Two other good bets are flounder or sole (.05 ppm, .48g omega-3s per three ounce piece) and pollack (.06 ppm, .45g omega-3s per three ounce piece). 

So, if you want a healthy heart and a bright child, swearing off fish entirely isn’t the answer.  Eating the safe kind of fish, however – two to three times a week – is.

Related Posts

  1. Omega-3 Fish Oils Greatly Reduce the Risk of Three Major Diseases, Study Finds
  2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Cut Colorectal Cancer Risk in Men, Study Finds
  3. Intake of Prenatal Vitamins Drastically Reduces Children’s Cancer Risk, Study Finds
  4. A Beautiful Find…Study Finds Fish Oil May Prevent Onset of Schizophrenia
  5. Zinc Supplementation Reduces Death Risk in Children, Study Finds
  


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