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Omega-3s May Counteract Mercury Toxicity From Fish

No developmental problems seen in children of frequent seafood eaters from Seychelles islands

THURSDAY, Jan. 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Despite concerns over mercury exposure, pregnant women who eat lots of fish may not harm their unborn children, a new study suggests. The study — funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Seychelles government — was published online Jan. 21 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester’s department of Public Health Sciences in Rochester, N.Y., and colleagues followed 1,265 mothers and their children. At 20 months after birth, the children underwent a battery of tests designed to measure their communication, behavior, and motor skills. Mothers provided hair samples during pregnancy to measure levels of prenatal mercury exposure.

Mercury exposure did not correlate with lower test scores, the researchers found, and some of the Seychelles children now have been observed living healthy, normal lives into their 20s. Mercury ended up associated with developmental damage only in children whose mothers had high levels of meat-related omega-6 fatty acids but low levels of omega-3s from fish oil.

“The theory is that mercury exposure confers toxicity because it induces oxidation in the human body, which often results in inflammation,” van Wijngaarden told HealthDay. “These omega-3s are more anti-inflammatory. The idea would be that they would reduce the level of inflammation in the mother, softening any effect that mercury might have on the unborn child.”

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