Researchers looked for associations between fish consumption – during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, and during childhood – and improved brain function in children. Benefits associated with eating seafood included better motor skills, higher IQ scores and academic grades, sharper verbal reasoning, and lower risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to children who didn't eat seafood, or whose moms didn't eat seafood while pregnant or breastfeeding, researchers reported in the journal PLEFA.
Together, the studies spanned three continents and included more than 100,000 mom-and-child pairs and over 25,000 individual children.
Many of the studies examined consumption of a broad array of seafood, such as salmon, tuna, trout, tilapia, and shellfish. A few tried to distinguish between different types of fish, such as oily, white, or canned. Overall, the studies seem to suggest that eating a broad array of seafood in general is beneficial to children's brains.
Many pregnant women and parents worry about eating fish or giving fish to their children because of concern about mercury contamination. Yet the studies analyzed didn't find any negative correlation between mercury exposure from fish and brain development. In fact, greater fish consumption was often associated with increased brain health.
Nevertheless, it's true that seafood can contain mercury, and it's wise to avoid fish that's high in mercury. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends choosing fish from its "best choices" and "good choices" lists.
Seafood overall is a healthy choice. Fish is a great source of important nutrients such as healthy omega-3 fats (called DHA and EPA), vitamins, iron, and minerals that are important for your child's brain development.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend eating these amounts of low-mercury fish per week:
- Pregnant and nursing women, and children ages 11 and older: 8 to 12 ounces a week (that's two to three 4-ounce servings)
- Younger children: One to two small servings a week, which should vary by age:
- 1 ounce for children ages 2 to 3
- 2 ounces for ages 4 to 7
- 3 ounces for ages 8 to 10
our site News & Analysis is an assessment of recent news designed to cut through the hype and get you what you need to know.