For years and years, everyone has known that pregnant women shouldn't eat fish, but according to new research, those warnings might not be necessary after all. In fact, it seems that the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy might outweigh the risks. So seafood fans everywhere, rejoice!
Traditionally, pregnant women have been told to avoid fish because of the possible mercury content, given that mercury is a neurotoxin that is defintiely not good for fetal brain development. However, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the fatty acid found in fish might actually act as a protection from potential mercury damage, in addition to providing all sorts of benefits on its own.
In the study, researchers followed over 1,500 mothers and their children. They analyzed samples of the mothers' hair during pregnancy to determine their mercury exposure, and at the age of 20 months, the children were given a series of tests to gage their communication skills, motor skills, and behavior. Surprisingly, they found no correlation for children between mercury exposure and lower test scores. Which is pretty awesome and potentially means more dietary options for pregnant people.
Which, given that you can't always control what you're craving when you're pregnant, is pretty awesome news.
Of course, one study — even a relatively large one — isn't really enough to warrant breaking out the salmon just yet. But given that the FDA announced last year that it was also reconsidering its recommendations regarding fish during pregnancy, it is a sign that the times are beginning to change. After all, the FDA currently still recommends women not consume more than 12 ounces of fish per week while pregnant — which comes out to about two servings. For contrast, the women in this study ate an average of 12 meals of fish per week.
"It's not clear that the current recommendation of limiting your fish intake is actually warranted based on the current data," Dr. Laura Riley, the medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital told US News. "This study is again raising that same question. Is this really that bad? Do you need to take into consideration the beneficial effects of eating fish?" But at the same time, she believes that more studies are necessary to justify any changes.
Still, fish fans have reasons to feel optimistic. Hopefully the good news will just keep on coming.