Too much fish consumption during pregnancy raises a child’s obesity risk

According to a recent study published online by JAMA Pediatrics, the maternal fish consumption for more than three times per week during pregnancy may put their unborn babies at higher risk of childhood obesity.

In July 2014, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency suggested that pregnant and breastfeeding women should eat less than three servings of fish per week with a view to limit fetal exposure to methyl-mercury. Those women were also recommended to avoid some fish which was known to be contaminated with mercury such as tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

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The authors of the new study, Leda Chatzi, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Crete, Greece, and his coauthors tracked 26,184 pregnant women and their children in European and U.S studies to examine associations with maternal fish intake and childhood development and weight status. They observed children until they were 6 years old.

The study found that women who consumed fish more than three times every week during their pregnancy period gave birth to children higher BMI values at 2, 4 and 6 years of age compared with women who consumed less. Also, the heavy consumption of fish of pregnant women linked to higher risk of rapid growth from birth to 2 years and overweight/obesity for children at ages 4 and 6 years compared with women who had less fish in their daily diets. How much the fish intake effected on the children’s development and weight status varied depending on their gender, according to the study.

fish consumption and obesity

Previous studies on fish consumption mostly focused on the exposure to methyl-mercury but not negative effect on a childhood growth. “Fish is generally considered an integral component of a healthy diet. However, it is a complex exposure,” said Leda Chatzi.

Fish is acknowledged as an important source of protein and other nutrients which are necessary for humans. It is a major dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proved to the reduction of fat deposits by limiting the production of fat cells.

By contrast, fish is largely known as a common source of human exposure to persistent organic pollutants, which may exert endocrine-disrupting properties and make a great contribution to overweight and obesity.

“It is possible that at higher levels of fish consumption, the potential adverse effects of contaminants mask or outweigh the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids,” Leda Chatzi added.

According to the author team of the current study, what they were planning to do in the next time was to find out why a pregnant woman’s fish consumption and their dietary patterns, tend to have greater effect on a female baby compared to a male one. They also expressed that they would spend more time looking into placental tissue to glean how intra-uterine factors such as diet could have sex-specific effects.

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