Eating Fish During Pregnancy May Have Metabolic Benefits for Children

Eating fish when pregnant — but not too much — is linked to better metabolic health in children, researchers report.

For a study in JAMA Network Open, scientists recorded fish consumption and blood mercury levels in 805 women with singleton pregnancies and then followed their children’s metabolic health for an average of eight years.

They assigned the children a score based on the five components of the metabolic syndrome that measure the degree of risk for cardiovascular and other diseases: high waist circumference, high blood pressure, and abnormal levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and insulin.

Children of mothers who ate less than one serving of fish weekly during pregnancy averaged worse metabolic syndrome scores that those whose mothers ate one to three servings, the currently recommended amount. Moderate fish consumption was also associated with reduced levels of inflammation in the offspring. There was no further benefit in eating more than three servings a week.

At the same time, eating more fish was associated with higher blood levels of mercury, and high maternal mercury levels were associated with poorer metabolic syndrome scores in children. Still, the benefit of moderate consumption exceeded the risk posed by mercury.

“Fish in general contains important nutrients for the developing fetus,” said the lead author, Nikos Stratakis, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern California. “Women should not be afraid of eating one to three servings a week.”

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