DOCTORS should provide more information to mothers-to-be about the benefits of eating seafood for their baby’s development, according to an industry spokesman.
This follows publication this week of results from a major international study showing higher fish consumption is linked to better physical and mental development in infants.
Mr Roy Palmer, the Network Leader in Seafood Services Australia’s “Global Seafood for Health” program, acknowledged greater attention on health rewards from higher consumption would benefit seafood industry members but said his call was based on sound research.
“A long-running international study of 25,000 women and their babies has concluded that higher seafood consumption during pregnancy led to better development at six months and 18 months of age,” Mr Palmer said.
“This is very important news and, added to other international research already reported in recent years, shows that mothers-to-be everywhere should be receiving more information about the proven benefits of higher consumption of fish and other seafood during pregnancy and breast-feeding.”
Mr Palmer said the results of the Danish-based joint US-European study had just been published in the September edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“The study team looked at 25,446 children born to mothers participating in the Danish Birth Cohort, a study that includes pregnant women enrolled from 1997-2002. Mothers were interviewed about child development markers at six and 18 months of age.
“Their diet during pregnancy, including amounts and types of fish consumed weekly, was assessed by a detailed food frequency questionnaire administered when they were six months pregnant.
“During the interviews, mothers were asked about specific physical and cognitive developmental milestones, such as whether the child at six months could hold up their head, sit with a straight back, sit unsupported, respond to sound or voices, imitate sounds or crawl.
“At 18 months, they were asked about more advanced milestones, such as whether the child could climb stairs, remove their socks, drink from a cup, write or draw, use word-like sounds and put words together, and whether they could walk unassisted.
“The researchers showed that the children whose mothers ate the most fish during pregnancy were more likely to have better motor and cognitive skills,” Mr Palmer said.
“ For example, among mothers who ate the least fish, 5.7% of their children had the lowest developmental scores at 18 months, compared with only 3.7% of children whose mothers had the highest fish intake. Compared with women who ate the least fish, women with the highest fish intake — about 60 grams a day on average — had children 25% more likely to have higher developmental scores at six months and almost 30% more likely to have higher scores at 18 months.”
Mr Palmer said the benefits from this study were generated by 400 to 450 grams a week of European fish species such as Cod, Plaice, Salmon, Herring and Mackerel.
“That equates to a minimum of two meals a week of 200 grams of fish, or more meals of smaller serves, including the oily species high in Omega-3 oils, such as Mullet, Tailor, Australian Herring, Australian Sardines, Mackerels, Yellowtail Kingfish and Atlantic Salmon.
“Not only mothers and babies but everyone in the community would benefit by eating a minimum of two seafood meals a week,” Mr Palmer said. “This is a message doctors should be encouraged to get across to everyone, mothers-to-be in particular.”
Seafoods Service Australia