Moms all over the world should try and eat fish at least three times a week if the want to help protect their children’s brains.

That’s what a recent study in Spain concluded.

Over the course of the past 20 or so years it’s been common advice for adults and children to eat more fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids to help boost cardiovascular and brain health.

But after researchers followed 2,000 pregnant mothers and observed their fish consumption levels the recommendation for fish consumption during pregnancy now makes sense.

Following the children from the time they were in-utero until their fifth birthday they observed when mothers ate 500-600 grams of fish per week the diet offered definitive neuro-protective result for the child. This combined with no risk for acute mercury poisoning despite the amount of fish eaten.

The lead author of the study, Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, said this confirms what they knew about fish and its ability to positively affect brain matter (despite the risk of mercury poisoning).

“Seafood is known to be an important source of essential nutrients for brain development, but at the same time accumulates mercury from the environment, which is known to be neurotoxic.”

These findings might actually make it so the USDA guidelines for pregnant mothers to consume no more than 12 oz. of fish a week could be bumped up a few ounces in the near future.

Julvev did assert it would take more study to help give pregnant mothers better guidance when it comes to mercury poisoning.
What they were 100% certain about was the ability of fish consumption to help with the child’s developing brain.

Focusing on women who ate large amounts of  “fatty fish such as swordfish and albacore tuna, smaller fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies or salmon, and lean fish such as hake or sole, as well as shellfish and other seafood,” they determined the more the mothers ate the healthier the child’s brain was.

According to Reuters:

At ages 14 months and five years, the children underwent tests of their cognitive abilities and Asperger Syndrome traits to assess their neuropsychological development.

On average, the women had consumed about 500 g, or three servings, of seafood per week while pregnant. But with every additional 10 g per week above that amount, children’s test scores improved, up to about 600 g. The link between higher maternal consumption and better brain development in children was especially apparent when kids were five.

The researchers also saw a consistent reduction in autism-spectrum traits with increased maternal fish consumption.

Mothers’ consumption of lean fish and large fatty fish appeared most strongly tied to children’s scores, and fish intake during the first trimester, compared to later in pregnancy, also had the strongest associations.

“I think that in general people should follow the current recommendations,” Julvez said. “Nevertheless this study pointed out that maybe some of them, particularly the American ones, should be less stringent.”

One thing they did note was they found no observed benefit when the mothers ate more than 595 grams of fish. So in this case more isn’t necessarily better.

Julvez and his team recommend pregnant mothers do their best to eat more fish, but also make sure the fish they eat are the ones known for lower mercury levels.