Eat fish to have a brainy baby, women are advised
Pregnant women are being advised to eat moderate amounts of fish to have brainy babies.
The nutrition a baby receives in the womb, during the first trimester in particular, has a lasting effect on their ability to learn.
It also impacts on their risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke later in life, Prof Dr Emily Oken of Harvard Medical School told a meeting in Dublin.
"Our research shows that moderate fish consumption during pregnancy showed no detrimental effects on the offspring and can actually benefit their language and visual motor skills in the early years of life," she said.
Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines are good sources of Omega-3, a special kind of fat. Pregnant women have been urged to avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin because of high levels of mercury.
The first trimester of pregnancy is regarded as the most sensitive time for babies in the womb, she told the 'First 1,000 Days' medical seminar, in association with the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute.
Babies are influenced by factors such as their mother's excess weight gain and poor nutrition during pregnancy.
The meeting was told that the first 1,000 days of life - from conception to two years of age - has been pinpointed by medical experts as presenting a unique "window of opportunity" to get baby's nutrition right, with a long-lasting impact on their health.
Coombe Hospital obstetrician Prof Michael Turner told the gathering that the growing rate of obesity in Ireland amongst adults, children and infants was having a severe impact on contemporary obstetrics.
"We now know that a woman's pre-pregnancy weight is far more influential than weight gained during pregnancy on her offspring," he warned.
It contributes to her chance of gestational diabetes, the incidence of which has increased in Ireland threefold in the past six years. "This is largely due to the fact that one in six women in Ireland are obese before they conceive and better screening compliance amongst obstetricians and GPs.
"Gestational diabetes results in maternal and foetal complications and the need for obstetric intervention, all of which increase the cost."