The Food and Drug Administration has updated their seafood consumption guidance for expecting and breastfeeding mothers, highlighting the importance of a diet rich in seafood to the development of babies during pregnancy and early childhood. Recent long-term studies confirm this advice.

Pregnancy & Seafood

For years, women have been told to steer clear of seafood during pregnancy or while breastfeeding due to concerns over mercury consumption. But in July, the Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency released updated guidance regarding the consumption of fish for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers-- including a helpful chart that simplifies the process of choosing the healthiest and safest options, minimizing mercury scares.

This new FDA advice stresses the health benefits of a diet rich in different types of fish and shellfish, as well as which fish are safe to eat during pregnancy.

Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said that expecting mothers should be eating much more seafood.

“Fish and shellfish are an important part of a well-rounded diet. However, we know many consumers worry about mercury in fish and even choose to limit or avoid fish because of this concern. We have seen that women in the U.S. who are pregnant are consuming far less than the recommended amount of seafood,” Mayne said.

The new advice indicates that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume between 8 and 12 ounces of seafood per week from choices that are the lowest in mercury. The Best Choices list is comprised of the safest fish with the lowest mercury content like cod, flounder, salmon, shrimp, and many others. Seafood Choices to Avoid contain the highest mercury levels, and that list includes king mackerel, swordfish, bigeye tuna, and shark.

Confirming this advice, a recently released study out of Spain followed nearly 2,000 moms and their babies from the first trimester of pregnancy through the child's fifth birthday. Their findings reported that omega-3 acids found in fish are linked to a reduced risk of depression for mothers and a healthier birth weight for babies, along with improved development and brain function, and possibly asthma prevention.

In addition, the investigators found that eating large amounts of fatty fish during pregnancy could offer moderate benefits for the developing baby, including improvements in cognitive functioning and some protection from autism-spectrum traits.

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