"Should pregnant women eat more tuna?" asks the New York Times. I mean, it's something I think everyone has asked themselves from time to time, no?
Here, though, is a case of conflicting data: whether the risks of eating tuna and other large fish (which tend to be higher in mercury, a result of being higher up in the food chain) are outweighed by the benefits, i.e. getting a decent amount of nutrients, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids upon consumption.
As part of a sweeping review of nutrition recommendations, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently reiterated the current seafood guidelines: Americans should eat a wide variety of seafood. The report also acknowledges the risk of mercury exposure from certain kinds of seafoods, and notes that women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant should avoid certain kinds — tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel — because of their high mercury content.
The advisory committee has recommended that these agencies "re-evaluate" their stance on tuna for pregnant women. In the report, the panel argues that albacore tuna is a "special case." They noted that even when women ate double the recommended weekly amount of tuna, the benefits far outweighed the risks. "All evidence was in favor of net benefits for infant development and (cardiovascular disease) risk reduction," the panel wrote.
Not so fast, say advocacy groups like the Mercury Policy Project, whose director, Michael Bender, points out that "Tuna is responsible for nearly seven times more mercury exposure than the four high-mercury fish that the Federal Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women not to eat." Symptoms of mercury exposure in infants include delays in cognitive and motor skill development; speech and hearing impairment; and a general lack of coordination, among other problems.
Other experts cited in the article go on to argue that not enough people eat fish in general—which, to me, smells...fishy, or at least like the work of a special interest group(s). If anything, I think it's clear that there's no one best way to achieve optimal health; and that paying attention to your own body's needs, pregnant or not, tuna or no tuna, is the best way to ensure a sense of wellbeing.
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