Food and Behaviour Research

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The benefits of fish intake: Results concerning prenatal mercury exposure and child outcomes from the ALSPAC prebirth cohort

Golding J, Taylor C, Iles-Caven Y, Gregory S (2022) Neurotoxicology Jul;91:22-30 doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2022.04.012 

Web URL: Read this article on PubMed

Abstract:

Health advice to pregnant women concerning consumption of mercury-containing foods has resulted in anxiety, with subsequent avoidance of fish consumption during pregnancy. However, seafood contains many nutrients crucial for children's growth and development.

Longitudinal studies in the Seychelles, where fish is a major component of the diet, have not demonstrated harmful cognitive effects in children with increasing maternal mercury levels. Is the same true in a more developed country (the UK) where fish is eaten less frequently?

We review publications using data collected by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) to address this topic.

Total mercury levels were measured in maternal whole blood and umbilical cord tissue. Offspring were followed throughout childhood, especially their cognitive development. No adverse associations were noted.

Significantly beneficial associations with prenatal mercury levels were shown for total and performance IQ, mathematical/scientific reasoning, and birthweight in fish-consuming vs non-fish consuming mothers. These beneficial findings are similar to those observed in the Seychelles where fish consumption is high and prenatal Hg levels are x10 higher than US levels.

Government recommendations should be reviewed to emphasise the beneficial value of fish consumption during pregnancy.

FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:

An abundance of research evidence has already shown that the benefits of eating fish in pregnancy far outweigh the possible risks, with higher fish and seafood intakes linked with
  • reduced risk of pre-term birth
  • better outcomes for children's behaviour, cognition and educational achievement
  • better maternal health and wellbeing.

In this study, leading researchers in this field review the evidence to date concerning maternal mercury levels during pregnancy and child developmental outcomes, and find no adverse effects of mercury on child development, provided that mothers consume fish and seafood

They call for public health authorities to do more to encourage mothers-to be to consume more fish and seafood during pregnancy.  And importantly, they urge advisory bodies to STOP advising that certain types of fish be avoided during pregnancy because of their possible mercury content, as extensive evidence shows no justification for such warnings.

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For previous research and FAB comment on this topic, please see:



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