Some members of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition have declined to endorse recommendations released last week by the coalition that pregnant and breast-feeding women should consume at least 12 ounces of fish and seafood per week for optimal brain development of fetuses, infants and young children, USA Today reports. Research for the recommendations was conducted by the coalition's Maternal Nutrition Group and funded in part with a $60,000 grant from the National Fisheries Institute, a fishing industry trade association, according to USA Today.
The coalition is a not-for-profit group with nearly 150 members, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, CDC and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The coalition's guidelines conflict with current FDA and Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. FDA and EPA in 2005 issued separate warnings that advise young children, pregnant women, nursing women and women of childbearing age to avoid consuming swordfish, king mackerel, shark and tilefish because of high mercury levels. The warnings also recommended that those groups consume no more than 12 ounces of fish weekly and eat no more than six ounces of canned albacore tuna weekly.
The federal guidelines were prompted by some studies that showed that high levels of mercury -- which accumulates in the environment, as well as in the flesh of fish and the bodies of those who eat fish -- contribute to birth defects and other health problems. Several studies also demonstrated a subtle loss of mental acuity in the offspring of women who consumed fish during pregnancy. Fish and seafood are the major dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important nutrients for the brain and nervous system in developing fetuses, infants and young children.
The Healthy Mothers guidelines recommended eating 12 ounces or more of fish and seafood weekly to ensure healthy brain development. The guidelines recommended eating ocean fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines, which are highest in omega-3s. Fish is high in the mineral selenium, and the panel of experts that created the guidelines said "there is a growing body of evidence that selenium in ocean fish may also counteract the potential negative influence of mercury exposure." The new guidelines also recommended higher fish and seafood consumption to protect women's health.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation