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Diet & Health : Children & Women Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

All of sudden, experts say fish is safe to eat
By Ben Wasserman
Oct 5, 2007 - 3:54:00 PM

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FRIDAY October 5, 2007 ( -- Regardless of the mercury risk, a group of health professionals recommended pregnant women eat more than 12 ounces of fish and other seafood each week including salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel and seafood like shrimp, lobster and clams to benefit fetuses’ development of the brain, news media reported.  


Eating fish, particularly oily types for their omega 3 fatty acids is believed to be health beneficial.   But the toxic mercury found in a wide variety of fish or seafood may harm the fetuses if pregnant women consume too much of any.


The recommendation by 14 obstetricians and nutritionists is contradictory to the U.S. government fish consumption advisory issued by the FDA and EPA, which suggests pregnant women should eat no more than 12 ounces per week of fish only with low levels of mercury.  


The FDA and EPA also say in their advisory that expectant women should not eat any amount of swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and some white and albacore tuna, which generally contain high levels of mercury.


Mercury found in fish is largely methyl mercury, a form of the metal that is more toxic than the inorganic form to the brain or neurological functions.


Early studies have come to a consensus that eating too much of mercury-laced fish during pregnancy would lower IQ and motor skills among others whereas eating no more than 2 or 3 meals a week of low-mercury fish would help brain development and enhance the neurological functions.


The group did not recommend a limit to define a safe level beyond which mercury would pose a risk to the fetuses, which a scientist affiliated with said is a risky ignorance of the potential risk.


The group was said to have received $60,000 from a seafood company, according to Reuters. But the group said their recommendation is unbiased.


The scientist suggested that the important thing for pregnant women to do may be eat right amounts of the right fish.   Unfortunately, many types of fish caught from the sea or inland fresh waters contain mercury and other toxicants.


According to the Environmental Working Group, the best fish one can eat is Alaska red salmon fish.   Still some pose lower risk than others.   One practical way to make sure a fish is safe to eat is to check local or state fish consumption advisories.   Often times, the states post fish advisories on their web sites telling people the risk of specific sorts of fish.   The FDA/EPA database is outdated and no longer accurate, according to an early study.


The scientist said that not all types of fish are equally beneficial as they contain different amounts of mega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel may be the best fish pregnant women may eat.    But be aware that some types of tuna are not as safe.


Pregnant women who are concerned about the seafood safety may consider using certain brands of fish oil or fish liver oil.   Make sure that the products have been subject to rigid testing for mercury and other toxins.


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