“What is the fish intake recommendations during pregnancy with regard to child growth and development?”


Early life is a critical period of development. Stimuli during this period could permanently alter metabolism, the consequences of which are often observed much later in life. Fish contains important nutrients for this stage, like omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is also a source of pollutants that could be harmful or modify the endocrine function. That is why the US Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency updated in June 2014 their advice on fish consumption for women of childbearing age. They emphasized the benefits of fish consumption and encouraged women to consume more fish, but no more than 3 servings per week. Fish advisories have focused on the neurocognitive harms derived from methyl-mercury exposure, but have not considered others like childhood obesity or growth.

The present study gathered data from 10 European Union countries (involving Gipúzkoa, Sabadell and Valencia INMA cohorts from Spain), alongside with a United States city, to evaluate the effect of fish intake during pregnancy with growth and children’s obesity. A total of 26.184 pregnant women and their children born between 1996 and 2011 participated in the study and they were followed up at 2-year intervals until the age of 6 years. Median fish intake during pregnancy ranged from 0.5 times per week in Belgium to 4.45 times per week in Spain. Fish intake of more than 3 times per week during pregnancy was associated with a higher risk of rapid infant growth and childhood overweight or obesity, compared with fish intake of one times or less per week.

According to the authors, the presence of environmental pollutants in fish could provide an explanation of this relationship. These pollutants could alter endocrine function, changing fat metabolism. However, this explanation remains speculative. Further studies are needed to assess it.

These study findings are in line with the fish intake limits proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency. Fish contains important nutrients and its consumption should not be avoided, however, during pregnancy the consumption recommendations of no more than 3 servings per week should be followed.

Reference: Stratakis N, Roumeliotaki T, Oken E, Barros H, Basterrechea M, Charles MA, Eggesbø M, Forastiere F, Gaillard R, Gehring U, Govarts E, Hanke W, Heude B, Iszatt N, Jaddoe VW, Kelleher C, Mommers M, Murcia M, Oliveira A, Pizzi C, Polanska K, Porta D, Richiardi L, Rifas-Shiman SL, Schoeters G, Sunyer J, Thijs C, Viljoen K, Vrijheid M, Vrijkotte TG, Wijga AH, Zeegers MP, Kogevinas M, Chatzi L. Fish Intake in Pregnancy and Child Growth: A Pooled Analysis of 15 European and US Birth Cohorts. JAMA Pediatr. 2016 Apr;170(4):381-90.