A nutritionist weighs in on the latest tuna during pregnancy study.
Recently, Time magazine published an article suggesting that maybe, just maybe, swearing off tuna night during pregnancy wasn't necessary. The article featured an observational study demonstrating a correlation between pregnant women consuming fish such as tuna and protective effects on cognitive development and autism symptoms for the developing offspring. Results concluded: "...the umbilical cord blood test revealed higher amounts of mercury and DHA for people who ate more large fatty fish, but researchers didn’t see negative associations with mercury and the child’s neurodevelopment. It seems that our mercury indicator is telling more about fish consumption, and the positive effect of fish consumption, than the neurotoxic effects of mercury... The benefits tapered off when fish consumption was higher than 600 grams."
So, should we go ahead and book ourselves a reservation at our favorite seafood restaurant stat? Not exactly. Here's why:
- This study introduced in the TIME magazine article is an observational study, which means that the data collected has its own cons -- thus, requiring additional research to further validate findings.
- We have to be aware of our genetic predisposition. While this may be a whole other conversation, my advice is that during your pregnancy, you should do what you are comfortable doing and have already been doing for your body. i.e. Don't try anything new.
- Please be cognizant at the portion and serving intake of seafood especially during pregnancy. If you're able, keep a record the portion and type of fish.
- Consuming low mercury fish is advisable and if you're able to include it in your diet during pregnancy (assuming you've eaten it prior to pregnancy), it's recommended to continue.
- With any new piece of advice, take it lightly until it has been validated consistently!
While we're eager to see more exploration in this area, the dietary guidelines advising pregnant women to include 2-3 servings of seafood containing low mercury (updated in 2015) haven't really changed. According to that study, "... moderate fish intake suggest that maternal fish consumption during pregnancy may benefit offspring cognition in infancy but that exposure to higher levels of mercury has adverse effects on child cognition. These findings, based on a relatively small group of women, merit further investigation and verification in other populations consuming moderate amounts of seafood. Meanwhile, we recommend that women continue to consume fish during pregnancy but seek out varieties with lower levels of mercury."