Oct 2 2013

British study debunks mercury in fish risk for pregnant women

Seafood News

New research from the Children of the 90s study at the University of Bristol suggests that fish accounts for only seven per cent of mercury levels in the human body.

In an analysis of 103 food and drink items consumed by 4,484 women during pregnancy, researchers found that the 103 items together accounted for less than 17 per cent of total mercury levels in the body.

Concerns about the negative effects of mercury on fetal development have led to official advice warning against eating too much fish during pregnancy. This new finding, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, suggests that those guidelines may need to be reviewed.

Previous research by Children of the 90s has shown that eating fish during pregnancy has a positive effect on the IQ and eyesight of the developing child, when tested later in life. Exactly what causes this is not proven, but fish contains many beneficial components including iodine and omega-3 fatty acids.

After fish (white fish and oily fish) the foodstuffs associated with the highest mercury blood levels were herbal teas and alcohol, with wine having higher levels than beer. The herbal teas were an unexpected finding and possibly due to the fact that herbal teas can be contaminated with toxins. Another surprise finding was that the women with the highest mercury levels tended to be older, have attended university, to be in professional or managerial jobs, to own their own home, and to be expecting their first child.

Overall, however, fewer than one per cent of women had mercury levels higher than the maximum level recommended by the US National Research Council. There is no official safe level in the UK.

Read the full article here.

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