ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Indian Spice May Thwart Liver Damage
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
ANIMAL CARE
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Returning to the Road Tricky After Injury
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
CANCER
No Verdict Yet on Grape Seed Extract vs. Breast Cancer
Some Spices Cut Cancer Risk That Comes With Grilled Burgers
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
CAREGIVING
Are Hospital Mobile Phones Dialing Up Superbugs?
Injected Medication Errors a Major Problem
Weekend Admission May Be Riskier for GI Bleeding
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Anemia Rates Down for U.S. Women and Children
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Amino Acid May Be Key to Strong Teeth
Sports Drinks May Be Tough on Teeth
DIABETES
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
DIET, NUTRITION
Caffeine May Offer Some Skin Cancer Protection
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
Eat Light - Live Longer
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Green Areas Lower Health Inequities Between Rich, Poor
Bed Bugs Bring No Disease Danger
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
EYE CARE, VISION
Nutrient-Rich Diet Lowers Risk of Age-Related Eye Disease
Clues Found to Brain Mechanism Behind Migraines
Poor Night Vision May Predict Age-Related Eye Disease
FITNESS
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Vigorous Exercise Can Cut Breast Cancer Risk
Good Warm-Ups Could Halve Sports Injuries
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
GENERAL HEALTH
The Brain Comes Alive With the Sounds of Music
Sleep and Do Better
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
Research Shows Genetic Activity of Antioxidants
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Help Your Kids Stay Active
Babies Who Eat Fish Lower Eczema Risk
Protect Your Kids From Swine Flu While at Camp
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Countdown to Hair Loss
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
PAIN
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Expectant Mom's Exercise Keeps Newborn's Birth Weight Down
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
SENIORS
Seniors Cope With Sleep Loss Better Than Young Adults
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
Add your Article

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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