Children, pregnant women in the US and Canada are not consuming enough seafood, study finds

A pregnant woman eating tuna in a salad
A pregnant woman eating tuna in a salad I Photo courtesy of Tekkol/Shutterstock
2 Min

Women of childbearing age, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children are not consuming recommended amounts of seafood in the U.S. and Canada, according to a new study.

The research, organized by Washington, D.C., U.S.A.-based National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, was summarized in a webinar titled “The Role of Seafood Consumption in Child Growth and Development,” which took place on 26 March. 

The study examined the relationship between seafood intake for pregnant and lactating women and child development, finding that seafood consumption by pregnant women might protect against negative neurocognitive outcomes in their children.

“We needed to identify the nutrients in the seafood consumed,” Researcher Virginia Stallings said. “We needed to identify the different toxins in microorganisms that might occur and understand their level or concentration. Within this, we continued to look for what biomarkers exist or might exist in the future and the interactions between the toxicants and put all of that together as the dynamic interaction that it is.”

It also found multiple factors influence patterns of seafood consumption, such as residence in coastal communities or near bodies of water where seafood consumption is more prevalent, and, therefore, many women and children not living in these environments rarely consume seafood.

Specifically, 25 percent of women in the U.S. and Canada either never consume seafood or only do so approximately once a month, and less than 20 percent of them eat two or more seafood meals per week.

Overall, seafood consumption in this demographic has stayed low over the past decade, according to the report.

Factors studied regarding seafood consumption included familiarity with preparation methods, cultural and traditional practices, and overall exposure.

“One of the most important findings was that even though at a population level, there has been some increase in seafood consumption based on some data, for women of childbearing age and the children we were focused on, the intake is generally very low and has remained low. It’s a similar intake as about 15 years ago,” Stallings said.

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