ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Herbal Remedy Could Halt Peanut Allergy
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Hypnosis Cuts Hot Flashes for Breast Cancer Survivors
Acupuncture Eases Side Effects of Head, Neck Cancer Treatments
Uncover Why Turmeric Helps You Heal
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Pain More a Cause of Arthritis Than a Symptom
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
CANCER
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Vitamin C Shows Promise as Cancer Treatment
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
Hispanic Children More Likely to Have Hearing Loss
Simpler Sleep Apnea Treatment Seems Effective, Affordable
More Than 60,000 Patients Risked Hepatitis Infections
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
DIABETES
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
DIET, NUTRITION
To Feel Better, Low-Fat Diet May Be Best
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Atkins Diet Tougher on Heart After Weight Loss
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Golf Course Insecticides Pose Little Danger to Players
Household Chemicals May Affect Cholesterol Levels
Fertilizer Ban Makes a Difference
EYE CARE, VISION
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Half of U.S. Adults Lack 20/20 Vision
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
FITNESS
Higher Fitness Levels Tied to Lower Heart, Death Risks
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Exercise in Adolescence May Cut Risk of Deadly Brain Tumor
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Olive Oil May Protect Against Bowel Disease
GENERAL HEALTH
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
Showerheads Harbor a Bounty of Germs
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Magnet Therapy May Ease Hard-to-Treat Depression
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
Lack of Vitamin D Linked to High Blood Pressure
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Obese Children More Likely to Suffer Lower Body Injuries
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
MEN'S HEALTH
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
The Unmedicated Mind
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Placebo Acupuncture Tied to Higher IVF Pregnancies
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
SENIORS
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
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How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?

By Karen Pallarito
HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are pregnant should include fish in their diet for optimal maternal health and fetal growth and development. That much health experts agree on.

But just how much seafood moms-to-be can safely consume without exposing their unborn babies to dangerous levels of mercury is a matter of ongoing debate.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises women to eat no more than 12 ounces a week, but a coalition of scientists in nutrition and medicine insists that expectant moms need at least that much.

"Recent data shows us that women are still not eating enough fish, and that's really alarming," said Judy Meehan, executive director of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, an organization dedicated to disseminating the latest science on maternal and child health.

"There's simply no other way to get the omega-3s for brain development that you can from fish," she said.

Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, a beneficial type of fat that is considered important for neural development.

Limiting fish intake to the government-recommended level, in fact, could be "detrimental" to a child's mental development, British and American researchers reported in 2007 in The Lancet. Their study found that children whose mothers ate at least three servings of fish a week during pregnancy performed better on tests of mental function.

In another study, Dr. Emily Oken, an assistant professor in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston, examined the balance between the nutritional benefit and contaminant risk of consuming fish during pregnancy.

She and her colleagues asked 341 women about their fish consumption during the second trimester of pregnancy and tested their blood levels for mercury. When their children were 3, they took a battery of tests to assess intelligence and motor skills.

"Test scores were highest in children of mothers who ate more than two weekly fish servings but had lower mercury levels, suggesting that the greatest benefit occurred when women ate fish low in mercury," Oken said.

"Even mothers who ate canned tuna more than twice weekly had children who scored better on tests, compared with those who did not eat canned tuna during pregnancy," she added.

Another study looked at 25,446 children born to Danish mothers. Kids whose moms ate more fish during pregnancy had better motor and cognitive test scores than those whose moms ate the least fish.

"Compared with women who ate the least fish during pregnancy, women who at the most fish -- about 14 ounces per week, on average -- had about a 30 percent likelihood of better development, about the same advantage a child would get from being one month older or from breast-feeding for more than one year," Oken explained.

The National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition partnered with the Maternal Nutrition Group, an independent group of physicians, researchers and nutritionists, in 2007 to encourage pregnant women to eat fish as part of a healthy diet. The concern was that many women were interpreting the FDA guidelines as a warning and curtailing their fish intake.

The FDA advisory, first issued in 2004, targets women who are pregnant or may become pregnant as well as nursing mothers and young children. These populations are urged to avoid certain types of fish that may be higher in mercury and therefore toxic to a baby's or child's developing nervous system. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

The FDA suggests choosing varieties lower in mercury and eating no more than 12 ounces -- or roughly two meals -- of fish or seafood a week. That upper limit should include no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna a week, it says.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists echoes that advice in its own nutritional guidance.

Still, many Americans, including expectant moms, don't get even two servings a week.

"The message is, eliminating fish is not a good thing," Meehan said. "Fish is uniquely important for brain development in babies."

More information

The American Pregnancy Association has more on mercury levels in fish.



SOURCES: Judy Meehan, executive director, National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, Alexandria, Va.; Emily Oken, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Boston; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, Md.American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, D.C.

Last Updated: April 11, 2009

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