Mothers are often advised by doctors on what they should and should not eat to maintain their own health and nourish the new life growing inside them. Many times, they are cautioned in the arena of eating seafood, as doctors can be worried about possible mercury contamination and other seafood-borne pathogens. Some research is showing that less caution is needed, especially because of the notable benefits from eating the Omega-3 and DHA rich fish salmon.
Two servings per week of salmon that was farm-raised and had added omega-3 in their food supply improved the antioxidant activity in both mother and child. Researchers at the University of Grenada conducted the SiPS (Salmon in Pregnancy Study) through the Princess Anne Hospital, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Southampton, United Kingdom, and randomly assigned women with low fish intake to one of two groups. The first group continued their normal diet and did not increase their intake of fish. The second group consumed two servings of the farmed salmon from 20 weeks into their gestational period until birth.
After analyzing the blood, urine, and stool samples of these 123 women who were found eligible for the study, as well as their umbilical cord blood and placental tissue, their EPA and DHA levels were found to be significantly higher from consuming these oils in their whole food form. Phosphatidylcholine was also found to be higher in the salmon group.
While these omega-3 fatty acids are important for human health and development in general, they are specifically necessary for proper development of fetal retinal and brain tissue, as shown in this extensive analysis which looked at numerous studies of omega-3 intake. Humans are unable to endogenously synthesize omega-3s, and the fatty acids from vegetarian sources are poorly converted to the necessary DHA and EPA forms, so marine sources such as salmon remain the richest choice.
Notably, the SiPS study found that children born to mothers who consumed the advised 2 servings of salmon were found to have less incidence of diagnosed asthmatic conditions, though there was no difference between the two groups in terms of allergies. Professor Phillip Calder, who headed this study, focuses his research on fatty acid functionality in the body, and how they modulate immunity, cardiac function, and metabolism.
Citing the concerns for mercury contamination in the food supply, there is evidence that methylmercury does cross the placental barrier, so limiting potentially contaminated fish is advised. Methylmercury is considered a neurotoxin, and has been shown to negatively impact the intelligence and neurological development of children exposed to it during fetal growth. Choosing smaller, younger fish tends to minimize the risk, as well as choosing fish that were farmed in uncontaminated waters.
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