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Studies Show Reduced Seafood Consumption During Pregnancy Can Harm Child Development

New evidence shows that FDA recommendations for reduced seafood consumption among pregnant and breastfeeding women may be too strict, as regular seafood consumption benefits brain and eye development.


U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Dr. Tom Coburn recently urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review and update fish consumption guidelines for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Current rules released in 2004 have led to unhealthy reductions in seafood consumption among pregnant women. The FDA's recommendations are not consistent with guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

"Consumers look to FDA for the most reliable source for dietary advice, yet their guidelines are six years old and inconsistent with more recent recommendations," said Senator Gillibrand. "It is critical that the FDA provide the most up-to-date and scientific information on seafood consumption. Parents need this information to make educated decision for their families."

In January, USDA and HHS released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that are based on the most recent scientific evidence. The guidelines recommend at least 8 ounces of seafood per week. Seafood consumption has dropped down to an average of 1.89 ounces per week, according to a 2008 FDA survey, largely because of the FDA's overly risk-averse advisory.

Reduced seafood consumption is causing harm to fetal and child development. The new recommendations explain that for pregnant women, the benefits of consuming seafood outweigh the risks, and in fact are important during fetal growth and development. The FDA's current advisory is at odds with this recommendation.

Seafood contains healthy nutrients like omega-3s and lean protein. In addition to protecting heart health, omega-3s make up a major part of the brain. Recent studies indicate that babies of moms who eat seafood 2-3 times each week during pregnancy and breastfeeding have better eye and brain development than babies of moms who limit or avoid fish. Studies found that women who ate 12 ounces or less of seafood a week were more likely to have children with verbal or other communication problems at age 3, as well as trouble with fine motor skills and behavior problems by ages 7-8.

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