IQ Articles > Fish Consumption Boosts IQ: But is it a Boon or a Bane?

Fish Consumption Boosts IQ: But is it a Boon or a


Eating more than 340 grams of omega-3-rich seafood per week during pregnancy was associated with higher verbal intelligence quotient (IQ) scores in the children, but a study, published in the October issue of journal Environmental Health Perspectives, has sparked the debate over the safety of fish consumption for pregnant women.
The research is significant since it goes against recommendations of seafood consumption during pregnancy, which state women should not eat more than 340 grams per week to avoid exposing the foetus to trace amounts of pollutants in the fish, like methyl mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs).

HMS Professor Emily Oken, in her Environmental Health Perspectives study, reported the risks of eating fish while pregnant must be pitted against the benefits.

Oken says "Over the last few decades there's been a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that experience in early life can have a long term influence on later childhood disease." Her team concluded that seafood improves cognitive ability after measuring the fish intake of over 100 mothers and the "Visual Recognition Memory," or VRO, of their six-month-old offspring. VRO is based on infant's ability to perceive "novelty," and is correlated with future IQ.

Albeit the vantages of omega-3 fatty acids, Oken incorporated the FDA's mercury warnings into her caution list stating that women restrict to the light canned tuna and white-meat fish, which are low in mercury and high on brain-boosting fatty acids.

Fish consumption by pregnant women receives a thumbs up!

A publication in the prestigious New York Times, October 19, 2006, have postulated two authoritative scientific assessments one from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the other from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health - concluding that for most people the health benefits of eating finfish and shellfish clearly outweigh any risks from contamination by toxic chemicals, heavy metals or pathogenic microbes.

Research speaks..

The new research, published today in The Lancet, compiled stats from 11875 pregnant women who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The women completed food frequency questionnaires to examine seafood consumption, and further the development, behavior, and mental function of their children were assessed from age six months to eight years.

The women were clubbed under the following categories based upon their seafood intake:

  • No seafood (12 per cent of the women)
  • Little seafood (1-340 grams per week, 65 per cent), and
  • Greater than 340 grams per week (23 per cent).

After adjusting the results for 28 potential confounders, Hibbeln and his colleagues report that verbal IQ scores for children from mothers with no seafood intake were 50 per cent more likely to be in the lowest rank.

For children belonging to mothers with little seafood intake, Verbal IQ scores were nine per cent more likely to be in the lowest quartile, compared to women who ate more than 340 grams per week.

"Maternal seafood consumption of less than 340 grams per week in pregnancy did not protect children from adverse outcomes; rather, we recorded beneficial effects on child development with maternal seafood intakes of more than 340 grams per week," final verdict by Joseph Hibbeln from the US National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

"These results show that risks from the loss of nutrients were greater than the risks of harm from exposure to trace contaminants in 340 grams seafood eaten weekly," he wrote.

Mercury Testing exonerates fish consumption risks

Positive results were released by The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), report dated 7/11/06, detailing the first comprehensive mercury testing of fish sold in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Working with an independent laboratory, the Center analyzed 142 samples of canned tuna and fresh fish from 36 different retail stores in Washington, DC and the nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Using published standards from the Food and Drug Administration as a guide, every fish sampled for this study was safe to eat.
The FDA has written that its mercury Action Level (1.0 part per million) was found to be 10 times lower than the lowest levels associated with adverse effects.

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