Eating Fish in Pregnancy and Beyond: Eat This/Not That

The FDA has made an additional recommendation to pregnant and nursing women: eat at least 8 but not more than 12 ounces of certain fish for your baby’s health. Don’t eat too much albacore tuna but eat some light tuna. Specific choices they recommend are the fish most likely to have low levels of mercury. Their recommendation is based on a study that correlates higher IQ with greater fish consumption. This is not the same as causation, but they are confident enough to issue the recommendation. Previously they only warned of eating too much fish with mercury. Their new guidelines seem to be a response to the fact that many mothers interpreted the message as “Fish are dangerous”.

Other blogs are filled with questions about whether this is an elitist mandate for people who can afford wild salmon at $20/lb, or a governmental attempt to confuse women at their most vulnerable. No one seems to know why fish is a good idea for health in general. A specific type of Omega-3’s, a lower-fat source of protein, etc all are suspect. It could be that women who eat fish are not eating processed food. Everyone agrees that people are eating less fish in developed countries, and that fresh fish is either expensive everywhere or suspect when caught in local waters due to pollution fears. Vegetarians are eating algae to get the same type of omega-3 benefits.

What is a mother to do? Some take supplements to simplify and eliminate the risk of mercury, but there is no firm indication that supplements provide the same benefits that foods provide. Some carefully monitor every ounce that they eat and source their diet carefully.

The decision is so personal that the best anyone can do is get reliable information and choose a path that seems based in logic and not in fear. We will all be looking for the next government recommendation. Hope it involves chocolate!

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