Give Moms the Right Message

What's most perplexing about the ongoing seafood-and-health debate is the fact that women of childbearing age, pregnant women and their young children - the targets of a 2004 federal advisory urging limits on seafood consumption - are the ones who could benefit the most from a seafood-rich diet. Yet another scientific study confirms that not only must pregnant women eat seafood, but also be fed the message that seafood is essential for their children's growth and development.

The study, which appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that mothers who had the highest fish consumption during pregnancy, as well as those who breastfed the longest, had babies with better physical and mental development. Researchers evaluated more than 25,000 children born in Denmark between 1997 and 2002 and monitored their mothers' diets.

The study's conclusion stated that future research and consumption guidelines, incorporating both nutritional benefits and contaminant risks, should consider the overall effect of prenatal fish consumption on child development. Unfortunately, U.S. health officials are hung up on the potential risks of certain species, ultimately lowering consumption among the people who need seafood the most.

A Glitnir report from earlier this year shows per-capita seafood consumption throughout the European Union, one of the world's largest seafood markets, averages 26.5 kilograms, or 58.4 pounds. Compare that to the United States, where consumption in 2007 reached 16.3 pounds.

The Europeans must know something we Americans don't. Or, more likely, they're not told to lay off what might be the best source of protein available to them.

That's why David Martosko, executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C., decries misguided activist messages about mercury in seafood as well as the 2004 joint seafood consumption advisory by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection.

"It's always been common sense that fish is a health food," Martosko says. "But it's a real shame than an avalanche of new science is needed to repair the damage done by wrong-headed government advisories and exaggerating green groups. The bottom line is that pregnant women should be eating more fish than the EPA says is safe. I think it's time to shake the Etch-a-Sketch and make the EPA re-evaluate its positions."

Just last week, CCF reported that media hype and exaggerated warnings are keeping more than a quarter-million of America's poorest children from eating any canned tuna, the most affordable source of essential omega-3 fatty acids, which are lauded for myriad healthful benefits. And because of mixed messages given to their mothers, these children, Martosko says, are being born at risk of having abnormally low IQs, a fact the recent study seems to back up.

Now that's just plain dumb. Give mothers the right message: Eat a variety of seafood several times a week. For their sake - and their children's.


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