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Limit Fish While Pregnant? Study Questions Advice

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Mercury Linked to ADHD Behaviors, Even at Lower Levels continued...

What could be at play here, according to researcher Susan A. Korrick, MD, MPH, an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is that it's possible that a woman could eat a lot of fish low in mercury, and her children could "reap the benefits of the nutritional content of the fish" instead of the harm from the mercury.

Conversely, women who eat less fish that's high in mercury could have the opposite effect, making their children more prone to ADHD.

“Given that fish is a major source of mercury, it seems a little counterintuitive that both of these things could be observed simultaneously,” Korrick says. “Fish consumption and mercury exposure are related, but they aren’t identical.”

“It’s a complicated message, but the part that’s most important from a public health perspective is that fish is a very healthful food for women to eat during pregnancy. It’s healthy for women to eat fish during pregnancy as long as it’s low in mercury.”

Experts who were not involved in the study agree, saying that telling women not to eat fish while they’re pregnant to avoid mercury may be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

“The beneficial effects of fish intake are [confused] by the presence of mercury in fish. If you don’t take both of them into account, you tend to underestimate the beneficial effects of fish, and you underestimate the adverse consequences of mercury,” says Bruce P. Lanphear, MD, MPH, who studies the effect of environmental exposures on brain function at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Lanphear wrote an editorial on the new research.

“The message is that yes, we should be eating fish. Not only is it beneficial for learning abilities, it is protective against ADHD,” Lanphear says. “Just eat the fish that’s low in mercury.”

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