For the first time in history, the federal government is now recommending that pregnant women, young children, and breast feeding mothers eat a minimum amount of fish to each week.
Here’s the good news! Pregnant women and moms who are still breastfeeding are encouraged to eat more fish and shellfish. The latest science shows that eating fish low in mercury during pregnancy and in early childhood can help with growth and neurodevelopment. Plus, it’s also good for your health!
Last Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency had previously advised pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and young children to limit on maximum fish consumption. Since recent research reveals the many health benefits of fish consumption, they now recommend a minimum limitation instead.
“Current guidelines, released a decade ago, focused on limiting the amount of fish consumed by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, due to concerns about contamination from methylmercury, which can cause brain damage, especially to developing brains,” said Elizabeth Southerland of the Environmental Protection Agency, which released the new guidelines along with the Food and Drug Administration. That advice scared a lot of pregnant women into avoiding fish altogether.
“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” FDA Acting Chief Scientist Stephen Ostroff, M.D., said in statement. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”
The new recommendations suggest women and children in these populations should consume 8-12 ounces (approximately 2-3 servings) of fish that are lower in mercury — like shrimp, salmon, tilapia, catfish and cod — each week to aid fetal development and growth. The guidelines discourage consumption of tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel and shark from the Gulf of Mexico, which are associated with higher levels of mercury.
The draft’s updated advice did recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women limit their consumption of white (also called albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.
“Pregnant women and women who are breast feeding should avoid albacore,” Edward Groth III, a food safety scientist and adviser to the non-profit Mercury Policy Project, said in a statement. “Given the enormous role tuna plays in U.S. mercury exposure, if women are going to eat more fish and also reduce their mercury exposure, they simply have to strictly limit their tuna consumption,” Groth said.
To learn more about this new consumer update visit the FDA’s page on this.