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Your Baby

Eating Fish During Pregnancy Benefits Baby’s Brain Development

2:00

Can eating more fish during pregnancy help babies’ brains function better as they grow older? Yes, according to a new study from Spain. The researchers say that mothers who eat three substantial servings of fish – each week- during pregnancy may be giving their children an advantage as they mature.

Researchers followed nearly 2,000 mother-child pairs from the first trimester of pregnancy through the child’s fifth birthday and found improved brain function in the kids whose mothers ate the most fish while pregnant, compared to children of mothers who ate the least.

Even when women averaged 600 grams, or 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.

“Seafood is known to be an important source of essential nutrients for brain development, but at the same time accumulates mercury from the environment, which is known to be neurotoxic,” lead author Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, said in an email to Reuters Health.

This important health concern prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to come up with a guideline for pregnant women in 2014. It encourages women to eat more fish during pregnancy, but limit the intake to no more than 12 ounces per week.

For this study, researchers analyzed data from the Spanish Childhood and Environment Project, a large population study that recruited women in their first trimester of pregnancy, in four provinces of Spain, between 2004 and 2008.

Julvez and colleagues focused on records of the women’s consumption of large fatty fish such as swordfish and albacore tuna, smaller fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies or salmon, and lean fish such as hake or sole, as well as shellfish and other seafood.

Women were tested for blood levels of vitamin D and iodine, and cord blood was tested after delivery to measure fetal exposure to mercury and PCB pollutants. At ages 14 months and five years, the children underwent tests of their cognitive abilities and Asperger Syndrome traits to assess their neuropsychological development.

On average, the women had consumed about 500 g, or three servings, of seafood per week while pregnant. But with every additional 10 g per week above that amount, children’s test scores improved, up to about 600 g. The link between higher maternal consumption and better brain development in children was especially apparent when kids were five.

The researchers also saw a consistent reduction in autism-spectrum traits with increased maternal fish consumption.

Mothers’ consumption of lean fish and large fatty fish appeared most strongly tied to children’s scores, and fish intake during the first trimester, compared to later in pregnancy, also had the strongest associations.

“I think that in general people should follow the current recommendations,” Julvez said. “Nevertheless this study pointed out that maybe some of them, particularly the American ones, should be less stringent.”

Julvez noted that there didn’t appear to be any additional benefit when women ate more than 21 ounces (about 595 g) of fish per week.

“I think it's really interesting, and it shed a lot more light on the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy,” said Dr. Ashley Roman, director of Maternal Fetal Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

“I think what's interesting about this study compared to some data previously is that they better quantify the relationship between how much fish is consumed in a diet and then the benefits for the fetus and ultimately the child,” said Roman, who was not involved in the study.

Roman also noted that pregnant women should avoid certain fish such as tilefish, shark, swordfish and giant mackerel. These are larger fish with longer life spans that may accumulate more mercury in their tissue.

While fish may be a great source of protein and benefit brain development in utero, most experts agree that women should consult their obstetrician about what fish are safer to eat and how much they should eat during pregnancy.

The study was published online in the January edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology

Source: Shereen Lehman, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-pregnancy-fish-idUSKCN0UW1S4

 

 

 

Your Baby

Which Fish is Healthier for Pregnant Women?

1:45

New federal nutrition guidelines say that pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat 2 to 3 servings of fish every week. However, there are certain fish that should be eaten only once per week and other fish that should be avoided entirely by pregnant and nursing women.

One reason for the differentiation between certain types of fish is its likelihood of containing either very low or high levels of mercury.

Nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury. But some contain high levels.  A type of mercury called methylmercury is most easily accumulated in the body and is particularly dangerous.

Eating large amounts of these fish and shellfish can result in high levels of mercury in the human body. In a fetus or young child, this can damage the brain and nervous system.

The highest mercury concentration belongs to fish that typically live a long time. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid King mackerel, Marlin, Orange roughy, Shark, Swordfish, Tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico and Bigeye Tuna. These are fish that usually contain high levels of mercury.

The new guidelines come with a handy chart that gives you the best choices of fish, good choices and fish to avoid.

Naturally, many pregnant women are concerned about eating fish after hearing about the possibility of consuming any mercury whatsoever. It’s important to remember that most of the fish consumed by Americans falls into the safe category.

Studies show that fish provide an array of nutrients that are important for your baby's early development. Most experts agree that the key nutrients are two omega-3 fatty acids – DHA and EPA – that are difficult to find in other foods. Fish is also low in saturated fat and high in protein, vitamin D, and other nutrients that are crucial for a developing baby and a healthy pregnancy.

How do fish end up consuming mercury? Some of the sources (such as volcanoes and forest fires) are natural. It's also released into the air by power plants, cement plants, and certain chemical and industrial manufacturers, landfills and farming runoff.

When mercury settles into water, bacteria convert it into a form called methylmercury. Fish absorb methylmercury from the water they swim in and the organisms they eat. Methylmercury binds tightly to the proteins in fish muscle and remains there even after the fish is cooked. Fish that live a long time consume more mercury.

There are many benefits to eating fish; you just need to be aware of the kinds of fish you eat. To help you make the best choices, the new chart released by the FDA and EPA is shown below.

Story sources: Megan Thielking, https://www.statnews.com/2017/01/19/fda-guidelines-fish/

http://www.babycenter.com/0_eating-fish-during-pregnancy-how-to-avoid-mercury-and-still_10319861.bc

http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/UCM536321.pdf

Your Baby

Choosing the Safest Fish to Eat During Pregnancy

2:00

As a parent or an expectant mom, you may have travelled down the same path as many others- searching for the healthiest diet for your family or soon-to-be newborn.

Fish is one of the foods that rank high on the healthy food chart. It’s frequently referred to as a “brain food” because of its brain-boosting nutrients, particularly omega-3 fatty acid. Certain fish are an excellent choice while others may contain high levels of mercury; a known toxin than can harm a developing child.

Mercury is a common seafood pollutant. This neurotoxic chemical can harm a baby’s developing brain in utero, even at very low levels of exposure.

Seas are increasingly polluted by toxic chemicals from 2 major sources: small gold mines and coal fired power plants, according to a recent report by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF.)

Mercury in a mother’s body can be transferred to her fetus during pregnancy, exposing the developing fetus to the potent neurotoxin.

The report states that millions of women of childbearing age who eat mercury -contaminated fish have enough of the toxic chemicals in their bodies to harm a developing child. “55% of the global sample of women measured more than 0.58ppm of mercury, a level associated with the onset of fetal neurological damage.” This is the finding of a new, first of its kind report on mercury levels in women of childbearing age in 25 countries by HBBF partner, IPEN: the International POPs Elimination Network

While these findings may make you wonder if any fish are safe to eat, many health experts recommend that women who are pregnant should not give up eating fish out of fear of mercury toxins, but should focus on eating fish found to be very low in mercury. These include: wild Alaska salmon, sardines from the Pacific, farmed mussels, farmed rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel (not trawled).  

High mercury risk fish to avoid include shark, swordfish, orange roughy. bigeye tuna, king mackerel and marlin.

The FDA and the EPA joined forces this year and released new guidelines on fish consumption for pregnant women or those who might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and parents of young children. To governmental agencies created a chart to help these consumers more easily understand the types of fish to select. The agencies have an easy-to-use reference chart that sorts 62 types of fish into three categories:

  • “Best choices” (eat two to three servings a week)
  • “Good choices” (eat one serving a week)
  • “Fish to avoid”

Fish in the “best choices” category make up nearly 90 percent of fish eaten in the United States. The chart can be found online at https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm393070.htm

The HBBF report also includes a warning about canned tuna. Limit your intake of canned tuna. While tuna is higher in Omega 3s and nutrients than most fish, the mercury levels can vary in individual tuna. Light canned tuna is recommended over white tuna; however, HBBF notes in their report that scientists found that for both types, the potential harm to a baby’s brain exceeds the fish nutrients’ brain-boosting assets.

One tip to remember is that larger fish tend to absorb more mercury than smaller types of fish. Fish should not be eliminated from any family’s diet; the benefits far outweigh the dangers. However, it’s important to choose fish that are known to be lower in mercury for a healthier outcome.

Story sources:  Charlotte Brody, RN, http://blog.hbbf.org/toxic-mercury-and-your-babys-ability-to-learn/

https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm393070.htm

 

Your Child

Can Eating Fish Make Kids Smarter?

2:00

As the New Year approaches and after all the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cookies and cakes– you might be thinking of starting off 2018 a little healthier!

How about starting a family love affair with fish? Myth has it that fish is actually good food for the brain-- but it just might be more than myth, a new study suggests.

Kids who ate fish at least once a week had intelligence quotients, or IQs, that were nearly 5 points higher than the IQs for kids who ate less fish or none at all, the study found. Fish eaters also slept better. How’s that for encouragement?

The study was small and conducted with Chinese children, but American kids are just as likely to benefit from fish, according to lead researcher Jianghong Liu, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

"If parents want their children to be healthy and higher-performing, they should put fish on the table once a week," Liu said.

Although the study cannot prove that eating fish accounted for the higher IQs and better sleep, they do seem to be associated, she said.

According to the researchers, the benefit in IQ can be pinned to the better sleep afforded by omega-3 fatty acids found in many types of fish.

To find out if fish was linked to benefits in children's health, Liu and her colleagues studied the eating habits of more than 500 boys and girls in China, 9 to 11 years old. The children completed a questionnaire about how often they'd eaten fish in the past month, with options that ranged from never to at least once a week. 

The kids also took the Chinese version of an IQ test that rates verbal and nonverbal skills, called the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised.

In addition, the children's parents answered questions about their child's sleep quality. The information collected included how long kids slept, how often they woke during the night and whether they were sleepy during the day.

Liu's team also took into account other factors that could influence the findings, such as the parents' education, occupation and marital status and the number of children in the home. 

The team found that children who ate fish at least once a week scored 4.8 points higher on the IQ tests than those who seldom or never ate fish. Kids whose meals sometimes included fish scored slightly more than 3 points higher. 

Moreover, eating more fish was linked with better sleep.

Not everyone is so excited about the study’s results. One U.S. nutritionist says that advice to eat fish should be taken with a grain of salt. 

"It's not that eating fish is unhealthy per se, but there are issues that need to be considered before parents go overboard feeding fish to their kids to make them smarter and sleep better," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. She was not involved with the study.

Fish is a good source of lean protein and is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, she said. These acids are highly concentrated in the brain and play important roles in neurological function. They are essential for brain, eye and neurological development in fetuses. They are also necessary for eye, heart and brain health in adults and may reduce systemic inflammation, Heller said.

One concern many people have is the amount of mercury found in some fish. The advice many nutritionists offer is that families should concentrate on eating fish that are low in mercury such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish, according to the FDA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends only one to two 2-ounce servings of low-mercury fish a week for children ages 4 to 7; 3 ounces for children 8 to 10; and 4 ounces for children 11 and older, Heller said.

"A healthy, balanced diet, plenty of exercise and limited computer and screen time can all help kids sleep better and do better in school," Heller noted.

The study was published online Dec. 21,2017, in the journal Scientific Reports.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, https://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/can-eating-fish-make-kids-smarter-729613.html

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