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How Much Fish to Eat While Pregnant?
Date:4/11/2009

Experts debate pros, cons of consumption and mercury exposure

SATURDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are pregnant should include fish in their diet for optimal maternal health and fetal growth and development. That much health experts agree on.

But just how much seafood moms-to-be can safely consume without exposing their unborn babies to dangerous levels of mercury is a matter of ongoing debate.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises women to eat no more than 12 ounces a week, but a coalition of scientists in nutrition and medicine insists that expectant moms need at least that much.

"Recent data shows us that women are still not eating enough fish, and that's really alarming," said Judy Meehan, executive director of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, an organization dedicated to disseminating the latest science on maternal and child health.

"There's simply no other way to get the omega-3s for brain development that you can from fish," she said.

Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, a beneficial type of fat that is considered important for neural development.

Limiting fish intake to the government-recommended level, in fact, could be "detrimental" to a child's mental development, British and American researchers reported in 2007 in The Lancet. Their study found that children whose mothers ate at least three servings of fish a week during pregnancy performed better on tests of mental function.

In another study, Dr. Emily Oken, an assistant professor in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston, examined the balance between the nutritional benefit and contaminant risk of consuming fish during pregnancy.

She and her colleagues asked 341 women about their fish consumption during the second trimester of pregnancy and tested the
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