Pregnant Women and Children Fish Consumption and Toxicity (POP’s, PCB)
The recent article in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives “Evaluating the Effectiveness of Fish Consumption Advisories: Modeling Prenatal, Postnatal and Childhood Exposures to Persistent Organic Pollutants” (POP’s) which you can read here… is a detailed and important contribution to our understanding of the risks to health these toxins pose and what we can do about it. Most health care providers and government advisories recommend that you avoid fish while pregnant.
Avoiding fish while pregnant is important in reducing the fetal exposure to toxins like mercury, pesticides, and herbicides which all accumulate in fish. This article points out that these recommendations, while helpful in moderate reduction of the mercury exposure due to the very long half life of persistent organic pollutants like PCB’s (Polychlorinated Biphenyl’s), only reduce the fetal exposure to PCB’s by 10-15% and if the pregnant woman replaces fish with more meat, the PCB exposure could even go up.
Studies have shown that up to 25% of a woman’s Omega-3 comes from fish. Since Omega-3 fats are so important for your baby’s brain development, it is very important that you supplement with a purified safe source of Omega-3 while pregnant and perhaps in early childhood and beyond (especially if you continue to avoid fish). Avoiding fish for 5 years has been shown to reduce your PCB levels in the lipids by 240%.
Prior research (that can be read here… ) has shown that methyl-mercury has a half life in the body of 40-50 days. Methyl-mercury is especially high in fish (the larger the species, typically the higher the amount of mercury). It is the mercury exposure that has led officials to warn against fish consumption while pregnant. Clearly, to get adequate protection from this mercury, a woman would do well to avoid fish for many months before getting pregnant. The levels of mercury contamination of many fish are such that it is really no longer safe for children either. That tuna sandwich, while loaded with good protein and some Omega-3, likely packs a huge toxic dose of mercury, not to mention all the pesticides, herbicides and POP’s like PCB’s that are in fish. Farm-raised fish typically are higher in the pesticides, herbicides, POP’s, and PCB’s.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
Eat lower on the food chain (more organic fruits and vegetables). Minimize fish consumption in the months before you get pregnant and none while pregnant. Take a purified source of omega-3 fish oil or lots of natural plant based Omega-3 (like flax). When it comes to toxins, the vegetarian lifestyle wins. For those suffering from metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, obesity or those with multiple food sensitivities, it may not be practical or healthy to avoid meat. Moderation will be important. Consider the source of your animal protein and if at all possible avoid the factory farm products.