ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Baby's Sleep Position May Not Affect Severity of Head Flattening
Critically Ill Patients Lack Vitamin D
More Than 60,000 Patients Risked Hepatitis Infections
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Tai Chi and Qigong Offer Many Health Benefits: Review
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Treatment Doesn't Cut Preterm Birth Risk
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
DIABETES
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Mediterranean Diet Helps Protect Aging Brain
Healthy Eating While On Vacation
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Warmer-Than-Average Temperatures Raise Migraine Risk
Dementia Underestimated in Developing Countries
1976 Italian Dioxin Release Damaged Babies' Thyroids
EYE CARE, VISION
Hybrid Cars Pose Risk to Blind, Visually Impaired
Diabetic Hispanics Missing Out on Eye Exams
Omega-3 Foods May Lower Eye Disease Risk
FITNESS
Bursts of Vigorous Activity Appear to Be a 'Stress-Buffer'
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Sun, Smoke, Extra Weight Add Years to Skin
Laugh and the World Understands
It Pays to Eat Less as You Age
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
Fondness for Fish Keeps Japanese Hearts Healthy
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
MEN'S HEALTH
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Mind Exercise Might Help Stroke Patients
The Unmedicated Mind
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
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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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