Women who regularly eat fish during pregnancy may increase their chances of having children who perform better in developmental tests, new Irish research has found.
A rethink on the current advice to pregnant women about consuming fish may be needed following the findings.
The research by Teagasc said women consuming large amounts of fish during pregnancy have children who outperform in developmental tests at nine and 30 months.
However, there is considerable controversy about consuming oily fish during pregnancy due to concerns about methylmercury (MeHg) exposure and neurodevelopmental impairment of the child.
Research carried out by Teagasc, the University of Ulster, the University of Rochester in the US, and the Ministry of Health in the Seychelles suggests the benefits of eating oily fish during pregnancy outweigh the risks of MeHg exposure.
The research examined 229 babies in the Seychelles. On average, pregnant women there eat 537g of fish each week. In three large mother-child cohorts followed since the 1980s, no adverse associations were found between MeHg exposure during pregnancy and later development.
Indeed, any associations found were in the opposite direction, suggesting mothers who had greater MeHg exposure, by consuming more fish, had children who did better in a range of developmental tests than children from mothers who consumed less fish during pregnancy, said Teagasc researchers Catherine Stanton and Conall Strain.