US government officials announced Tuesday recommendations that women who are pregnant or breast-feeding and young children eat a minimum of two servings of low-mercury seafood every week for their health.
This is a dramatic shift for the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, whose previous seafood advisories have shied away from bold recommendations of fish for pregnant women and children’s diets.
The new advisory recognizes the fact that fish is incredibly healthy and nutritionally beneficial for gestating babies, new borns, and children in their critical early age. The advice recommends 12 ounces — or about three servings — of low-mercury seafood like salmon, shrimp, cod, tilapia and light canned tuna for the women.
Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the F.D.A.’s acting chief scientist, said the agency was concerned that pregnant and nursing women were missing out on the benefits of eating fish. He cited studies showing that children born to women who consume fish have higher I.Q.s and better cognitive development than children born to women who do not.
“A large percentage of women and children are simply not eating enough fish, and as a result they are not getting the developmental and health benefits that fish can provide,” he said. “Studies very consistently demonstrate that among women who consumed more fish during pregnancy — or at least the amounts we’re currently recommending — that there were improvements in children.”
This new government advisory comes in step with USDA purchases of more than 60 million servings of Alaska salmon from the historic 2013 salmon catch being provided to US domestic food aid programs. which resulted from the profoundly successful ocean pasture restoration work of 2012 by Ocean Pastures Corporation and partners.
That work restored a vital ocean salmon nursery in the NE Pacific near to Alaska which is now shown to have resulted in revival of Pacific salmon levels of abundance seen 100 years ago. So much salmon was caught in Alaska last fall that storehouses are jammed with healthy wild salmon inventories.
Dr. Newman, director of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Medical University of South Carolina and a member of the Perinatal Nutrition Working Group, said that many women have stopped eating fish and feeding it to their children following the last FDA fish advisory in 2004 because they were confused by the recommendations. “They didn’t know exactly what was wrong with fish,” he said, “but they had heard that it was bad, something to do with mercury…”
Dr. Newman said he tells pregnant patients not to worry about restricting themselves to 12 ounces of fish weekly as long as they are eating low-mercury varieties. He said there are many epidemiological studies showing that children born to women who ate fish while pregnant have higher I.Q.s and better behavioral development.
One large study of thousands of mothers and their children published in The Lancet in 2007, for example, suggested that pregnant women needed to eat a minimum of about three servings of fish per week to get the benefits for child development.
For a comprehensive guide on how to understand and choose a diet including healthy fish link over to this FDA site,