Infant Health Bulletin Offers “Fast Facts” on Pregnant Women and Fish Consumption

by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

Sensationalized media accounts have misconstrued the facts on pregnancy and fish consumption, explains a new Fast Facts health bulletin from the National Coalition for Infant Health. Entitled “Fish Consumption for Pregnant Women,” the bulletin highlights guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Together, these authorities shape a unified message: two to three servings of cooked fish each week offer pregnant women and growing children proven health benefits.

Fish consumption can be a valuable source of iron and vitamin D, the Fast Facts bulletin explains, as well as omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA. These nutritional benefits also translate into a developmental boost for developing babies; fish consumption can boost babies’ IQ by 2.63 points and allow them to reach developmental milestones, such as sitting up, more quickly.   Mothers can also benefit in the way of improved mental health, stronger bones and better circulation.

Yet many mothers and developing babies miss out on these benefits. As the Fast Facts bulletin explains, the average pregnant woman eats only 1.89 ounces of seafood per week. A media narrative that overemphasizes the risks – and underplays the net benefits – of fish consumption may be to blame. This challenge persists despite the FDA and EPA’s guidance on which fish to avoid (tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel) and their clear advice on the nutritional benefits of fish consumption.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the Department of Health and Human Service and the Department of Agriculture reinforce advice that pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat two to three servings of fish per week. And the FDA and EPA’s updated guidance, currently in draft form, can help to solidify that nutritional message.

With updated FDA/EPA guidance, the bulletin concludes, federal agencies can better speak “with one voice” on the issue of pregnant women, developing babies and the nutritional benefits of fish consumption.

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