FRIDAY, March 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Moderate fish intake during pregnancy (one to three times per week) is associated with improvements in the subsequent metabolic health of children, according to a study published online March 16 in JAMA Network Open.

Nikos Stratakis, Ph.D., from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues used food questionnaire data from the Human Early Life Exposome project (April 1, 2003, to Feb. 26, 2016). Maternal mercury concentration was assessed using whole blood and cord blood samples. The analysis included 805 mothers and their singleton offspring (follow-up until the children were aged 6 to 12 years) in five European countries (France, Greece, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom).

The researchers found that fish intake consistent with health recommendations (one to three times per week) during pregnancy was associated with a 1-U decrease in the metabolic syndrome score in children (β = −0.96) compared with low fish consumption (less than once a week) after adjusting for maternal mercury levels and other covariates. There was no further benefit with fish intake of more than three times per week. There was an independent association seen between an increase in the metabolic syndrome score of offspring and higher maternal mercury concentration (β per twofold increase in mercury concentration = 0.18). Moderate and high fish intake during pregnancy were associated with reduced levels of proinflammatory cytokines and adipokines in children versus low fish intake.

“Our results suggest that, for pregnant women, the benefit of fish intake that is consistent with recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency exceeds the risk in terms of the metabolic health of children,” the authors write.

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