Pregnant women who regularly eat three potions of fish may benefit their child’s brains development for years, a new study has suggested.
Spanish scientists conducted the study to identify whether seafood is beneficial for a child’s neuropsychological development.
The study involved almost 2,000 pairs of mothers and children from the Spanish Childhood and Environment Project population study, who were assessed in the first trimester of pregnancy to the child’s fifth birthday.
The women involved ate swordfish, albacore tuna, shell fish, smaller oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, anchovies and salmon, as well as lean fish like hake, sole.
Their blood was then tested for levels of vitamin D and iodine, while umbilical cord blood was screened for mercury and other pollutants.
When the children reached 14-months, researchers studied them using the Childhood Asperger Syndrome Test, as well as the Bayley and McCarthy scales, which measure development and ability, respectively.
The paper published in the ‘American Journal of Epidemiology’ found that eating more than 340g of seafood a week was linked to better neuropsychological scores in children.
However, children’s test scores improved with every 10g of fish women ate above 500g, up to 600g, Reuters reported.
Lean fish and oily fish specifically showed correlation with better scores on the McCarthy and Childhood Asperger Syndrome tests.
Researchers also found that women who ate 600g of fish each week while they were pregnant were not affected by mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) linked with the food. Past studies have found these substances to be neurotoxic, and can affect a baby’s nervous system.
Lead author Jordi Julvez, of the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona, told Reuters that seafood is a known source of nutrients essential for brain development.
Citing US guidleines which advise women to limit their food intake to 340g a week, Dr Julvez said: "I think that in general people should follow the current recommendations.
"Nevertheless this study pointed out that maybe some of them, particularly the American ones, should be less stringent."
Further research must be carried out to better understand how eating fish affects development in order to give women better guidance.
Food trends in 2016
Food trends in 2016
1/11 Celeriac root
We had a kale obsession in 2015, but 2016’s vegetable sine qua non is predicted to be the knobbly celeriac root. Celeriac milk (Tom Hunt at Poco in Bristol serves it with winter mussels and wild water celery), celeriac cooked in Galician beef fat (from Adam Rawson of Pachamama, hot new chef in the capital) and salt-baked celeriac (to be found in Matthew and Iain Pennington’s kitchens at The Ethicurean in the West Country) are just a few examples.
2/11 Middle Eastern food
The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook (£24.95, Phaidon) by grand-dame Salma Hage, author of the bestseller The Lebanese Kitchen (whose halva is pictured here), is out in April
© Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton
3/11 Non-alcoholic cocktails
Grain Store mixologist Tony Conigliaro has created Roman Redhead, a riot of red grape juice, beetroot, pale ale and verjus, and Rose Iced Tea (black tea, rose petals, anise essence, pictured here)
The discerning will be slurping Hepple gin – from chef Valentine Warner and cocktail guru Nick Strangeway – which is punctuated with bog-myrtle nuances
5/11 Argyll and Bute
Restaurant followers are getting in a froth about Pam Brunton in Scotland, who opened the Inver restaurant in Argyll and Bute to acclaim last year
6/11 Andy Oliver’s Som Saa
One of the most eagerly awaited restaurants of 2016 will be the permanent incarnation of Andy Oliver’s remarkable pop-up Som Saa opening very soon in east London. Oliver, who worked at Thai god David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok, raised a whopping £700,000 through crowdfunding, and is renowned for his piquant Thai flavours and obsessive attention to detail, including in his home ferments and DIY coconut cream
© Adam Weatherley
Another ruminant in vogue is venison, with Sainsbury’s doubling its line for 2016. It provides a protein-packed punch, with B vitamins and iron, and it’s low in fat. Its entry into the mainstream is in part thanks to the Scottish restaurant Mac and Wild, just opened in London, whose Celtic head chef Andy Waugh (who also runs the Wild Game Co) has been touting it as street food for years (his venison burger pictured here)
From Brett Graham’s The Ledbury to Angela Hartnett’s kitchens at Lime Wood Hotel in the New Forest, Cabrito is the go-to goat supplier among the chef cognoscenti (roasted loin of kid pictured here) – but this year, domestic cooks can get in on the action, as Sushila Moles and James Whetlor of Cabrito offer their meat through Ocado
Mike Lusmore / mikelusmore.com
Coffee sage George Crawford is launching the much-anticipated Cupsmith with his partner, Emma. Crawford believes that 2016 is the year purist coffee will finally meet the masses; Cupsmith’s mission will be to make craft coffee as popular as craft beer on the high street. The company roasts Arabica beans in small batches, improving its quality – but sells it online, at cupsmith.com, in an approachable way: expect cheerful packaging and names such as Afternoon Reviver Coffee (designed for drinking with milk – no matter how uncouth, most of us want milk) and Glorious Espresso
10/11 120-day-old steak
Hanging meat for extremely long lengths of time has become an art. In Cumbria, Lake Road Kitchen’s James Cross is plating up 120-day-old steak (pictured here). The beef is from influential “ager” Dan Austin of Lake District Farmers, who is currently investigating the individual bacterial cultures that go into this maturing process
11/11 Lotus root
Diners can expect root-to-stem dining - cue the full lotus deployed by the Michelin-starred Indian Benares in its kamal kakdi aur paneer korma
The NHS currently recommends that pregnant women do not eat shark, swordfish and marlin because they contain high levels of mercury. Tuna should be kept to 140g a week: equal to two steaks or four medium-sized cans.
The body’s website adds that pregnant women do not need to give up oily fish over concerns about PCBs, but should stick to two portions a week maximum of salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, and fresh tuna as the canned variety is not part of this category.
Pregnant women should also limit themselves to two portions of dogfish (or rock salmon), sea bass, sea bream, turbot, halibut and crab.
However, women do not need to be concerned about the amount of cod, haddock, plaice, coley, skate, hake, flounder and gurnard they eat.