Sigh. I hate it when government agencies bicker! Particularly when it interferes with my ability to give mommies-to-be and new moms good information. Grrr….
So, the Food and Drug Administration has long discouraged pregnant women and nursing mothers (& women of childbearing age & infants & children) from eating too much seafood, because of its mercury content. The F.D.A. suggests you eat no more than 12 ounces a week, and NO shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. These are longer living and/or predator fish, so their mercury levels will be higher than other types of seafood. Also, the F.D.A. has urged pregnant women and nursing mothers to eat no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna a week.
All of that simply means the F.D.A used to (apparently) think you should limit your fish to two meals a week, even though everyone knows that the omega 3s in fish oil are just about the best thing going for your gestating baby’s development, particularly its brain development.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when the F.D.A leaked a draft report saying it would urge the federal government to reverse the recommended limits on fish intake, and encourage everyone to EAT MORE FISH! It’s a fish free for all! Get it now, get it while it’s hot! The F.D.A. draft argues the nutrients in fish, including omega 3 fatty acids, selenium and other minerals, could boost a child’s I.Q. by three points, and outlines several other benefits for your developing child linked to seafood.
I talked to a doctor who is all about the possibility that the government might urge pregnant women to eat more fish.
Listen to what Dr. James A. McGregor, a Visiting Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, has to say about the federal recommendations regarding fish and pregnancy here…
However, this is not the end of the story!
The Environmental Protection Agency heard about this F.D.A report and was all “No! Way!” The E.P.A was not happy.
This was reported in the Chicago Tribune, and printed in papers across the country…
EPA scientists say the FDA’s report reaches conclusions that aren’t supported by the studies it cites, and at various points either trivializes or overstates existing research.
Some suggest the F.D.A is playing politics, cow towing to seafood industry lobbyists who want current suggested limits reversed before President Bush leaves office. Interesting idea. It bears consideration.
Bottom line, for me, anyway…fish oil is important. It is linked to a whole host of good things for your gestating baby, your infant and you! Just scroll down this page for a run down of possible benefits. It’s glorious stuff. Worth its weight in gold. I take supplements now, and I can tell the difference in the way feel when I don’t. I give my three year old fish oil supplements, and have since she was a baby.
I also took purified (no mercury) fish oil supplements when I was pregnant and nursing. I did not, though, eat a ton of fish. (Sorry Doc McGregor!)
So why all the fuss about mercury? What’s wrong with that cool substance you used to chase around your lab table in science class? Well, ask that sushi loving guy from Entourage!
Seriously, though, for you as a mom or mom-to-be, the E.P.A. warns…
For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development…Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb.
Down with mercury!
I think, though, this controversy and the associated cost/benefit analysis may be a bit easier to manage than many others we deal with as moms. Fish oil can add I.Q. points. Mercury can take them away. So, lets talk moderation, regardless of the recommendations, or future recommendations. You could take daily purified supplements, as I did, or you could stick with fish that are considered “safer”, like salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies, and limited amounts of tuna. You can find a balance that’s win/win, you know? At least I think you can.
If you have any questions about this or anything, talk to your o.b. or midwife.
What about the F.D.A and the E.P.A and their little spat? I say we get a big vat, fill it with fish oil, and let ‘em fight it out.
For much more information on prenatal Health and Nutrition, please listen to our Pea in the Podcast on the subject here.