Eating fish during pregnancy – are rules set to change?

If you’re pregnant (or have been pregnant) you’ll probably know that although fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (good for eyes, heart and brain) but there are certain fish that contain high levels of mercury that women with child are warned off.

The NHS currently prescribes the following advice re fish*:

Don’t eat shark, marlin and swordfish, and limit the amount of tuna you eat to:

  • no more than two tuna steaks a week (about 140g cooked or 170g raw each), or 
  • four medium-sized cans of tuna a week (about 140g when drained)

Don’t eat more than two portions of oily fish a week. Oily fish includes fresh tuna (but not canned tuna), salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout.

But this might be about to change.

Researchers at the University of Bristol, published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” have found that eating fish accounts for only 7 per cent of the mercury in a person’s body – much less than was originally thought.

The study analysed 103 types of food and drink items consumed by more than 4,000 pregnant women, and found that higher levels of mercury were not only associated with white fish, oily fish and shellfish but with herbal teas, alcohol, white rice and fresh fruit. And it was also acknowledged that mercury is also found in some beauty products and medications, as well as in water and air – pretty much unavoidable.

The point is this: pregnant women should eat a balanced diet. Anyone should eat a balanced diet – says the law of logic.

No decisions have been made on the fish restrictions during pregnancy – but keep your eyes and ears peeled and we’ll keep you posted!

Sources: *Nhs.co.uk – “Foods that can harm you or your baby” and npr.org  – “Fish Guidelines For Pregnant Women May Be Too Strict, Study Suggests”