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Omega-3 in Pregnancy

Pregnant Women Walk Omega-3/Mercury Tightrope

Eating more fish during pregnancy can improve brain function of children, according to a new study. Women who ate more than two servings of fatty fish per week had children who, at age three, performed better on cognitive and motorskills tests. However, women who had higher mercury levels in pregnancy, had children with lower test scores.

The problem is that women who had high mercury levels also consumed more fish. This conundrum is what prevents many women from getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet while pregnant. In fact, the US FDA recommends pregnant women not eat any shark, king mackerel, tilefish, or swordfish because of increased levels of mercury in these fish. It may be more feasible that women take a pure fish oil supplement in pregnancy rather than eat potentially contaminated fish.

Oken E, Radesky JS, Wright RO, et al. Maternal fish intake during pregnancy, blood mercury levels, and child cognition at age 3 years in a US co-hort. Am J Epidemiol 2008 Mar 28 [Epub ahead of print]]

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