Eating for Health: FDA Promotes the benefits of Seafood with Revised Draft Advice to Pregnant Women

There’s very little doubt that healthful eating is critical for a healthy mind, body and soul.  And it’s been well documented that our health status is affected in part by what we eat.  “Eating for Health” is especially important for pregnant women because it’s about eating for two.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made a dramatic announcement that will positively affect the health of expectant women and their babies.  For the first time since 2004, the FDA has announced a draft revision to the current joint FDA / EPA advisory for seafood and health.  This draft advisory now emphasizes the healthful benefits of seafood especially for expectant women.  According to Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s acting chief scientist, “Science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact . . . on general health.”

The draft updated advice cautions pregnant or breastfeeding women to avoid four types of fish that are associated with high mercury levels.  They are tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico; shark; swordfish; and king mackerel. In addition, the draft updated advice recommends limiting consumption of white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

Choices lower in mercury include some of the most commonly eaten fish, such as shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod.

When eating fish caught from local streams, rivers and lakes, follow fish advisories from local authorities. If advice isn’t available, limit your total intake of such fish to 6 ounces a week and 1-3 ounces for children.

It’s known that the average American consumes less seafood than what’s actually recommended to confer maximum healthfulness.  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating about 8 or up to 12 ounces per week (less for young children) of a variety of seafood to help prevent heart disease.  That’s because of the nutritious proteins and omega – 3 fatty acids that are abundant in seafood.  

As we and the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and others applaud FDA for moving in the right direction to update the current advisory, it’s important to remember that the benefits of seafood far outweigh the risks.  I also have to remind myself that the recommendation to eat more fish is important for everyone – including guys like me. 

For more information on the DRAFT advisory and to provide input and comments, click here to see the U.S. FDA / EPA Draft Seafood Advisory information page.