The Link Between Fish Consumption And Brain Development


Embryos and infants need a long-chain fatty acids to develop and grow properly. Because the body can not produce an adequate amount on its own, it is important to get these fatty acids from food or supplements.

The fetal brain grows rapidly during pregnancy. It weighs about 350 grams at birth and about half of it is fat. The main fatty acids in the brain are polyunsaturated and long-chain acids. These fatty acids are an essential component of cell membranes, especially in the brain and retina.

How essential are these acids?

The developing brain needs a large amount of these acids that accumulate in the brain especially during the last trimester of pregnancy and during the first few months of life. If you do not get enough in this important period, the fetal brain can be irreversibly damaged.

What should be done so that the fetus and the baby receive adequate supplies?

Embryos and infants need these important fatty acids for normal growth. Because the body can not produce an adequate amount on its own, it is important to get these fatty acids from food or supplements. This is why mother’s nutrition in pregnancy and breastfeeding is very important for the fetal and infant brain development.

Should fish be eaten a lot?

Fish have many nutritional benefits. They contain protein and are low in saturated fat and contain nutrients essential to brain development such as omega-3 fatty acids (called EPA and DHA), iodine, choline and iron. However, most fish contain pollutants such as mercury.

All fish contain mercury?

Mercury is found naturally in the environment. Mercury can be released into the air as a result of industrial contamination, and can accumulate in rivers and oceans. Mercury in water turns into methyl mercury, and so it accumulates in fish. Some fish contain more methyl mercury, depending on their diet and the amount of mercury in the water they have grown. In general, large fish that lived longer had more mercury, because mercury had more time to accumulate.

Methyl mercury can be toxic and endanger the development of the nervous system of fetuses and small children, but the degree of exposure that causes the injury is unknown. The documented documented cases of mercury poisoning from fish consumption occurred in Minamata and Nagata in Japan in the 1950s and 1960s after extensive industrial contamination in the waters in which they were migrated.

The mercury accumulates in the human body over time. It is eventually excreted, but it can take more than a year for the quantity to drop significantly. Therefore, it is important to follow these recommendations before you become pregnant. If you eat more fish than the recommended amount in one week, there is nothing to fear but you should avoid fish for the next week or two.

Should you limit the amount of fish on the menu?

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency recommend that women who are pregnant and lactating women and small children avoid fish containing high mercury and limit the consumption of fish and seafood to 340 grams per week. In this way, you can enjoy the benefits of fish without being exposed to damage from mercury.

What fish should you give up during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

It is recommended not to eat  shark, swordfish, king-mackerel and tilefish

Which fish should you add to the menu?

The following fish contain little mercury and can be eaten up to 340 grams of them, about two meals a week:

  • Canned light tuna
  • Salmon
  • Pollock
  • Catfish (and shrimp)

Longfin tuna, also called albacore, contains more mercury than canned light tuna. If eaten, reduce the amount to 170 grams a week. The same is true with tuna steak and sea fish.

Do fish grown in ponds contain mercury?

The risk of heavy metals does not exist in pond fish. Today, there are fish in the country that contain omega-3. Those who refrain from eating fish (vegetarian and vegan and those who simply do not like) can take omega-3 supplements.

Research in Seychelles.

A total of 11,875 women who completed questionnaires on the frequency of fish and seafood consumption during the 32nd week of gestation were enrolled in the Seychelles Inquirer. The researchers examined the development of their children in behavioral and cognitive terms from six months to eight years of age.

After neutralizing 28 variables that could affect children’s development (socioeconomic status and other dietary factors), there was an advantage for high consumption of fish and seafood during pregnancy.

The children of women who ate more than 340 grams per week had on average better scores in verbal ability, development, social behavior, and fine motor mechanics than children whose mothers consumed less than 340 grams a week.

The results show that it is important to include fish in mother’s diet during pregnancy and support the view that fish are food to the brain. Few fish and seafood (less than 340 grams per week) did not protect children from undesirable outcomes. On the contrary, the study did not actually examine the mercury concentrations in fish and / or the body, so they can not relate to its negative effects.

The researchers raise the question of whether fish intake should be restricted during pregnancy. Current recommendations may result in a reduction in fish consumption in general and thus too low consumption of essential fatty acids under the optimal development of the brain. In this way, there is more harm than good because the risk created by the lack of essential nutrients in fish is greater than the damage from exposure to pollutants such as mercury.