Fish provide key nutrients that support a child’s brain development according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated advice about eating fish, including shellfish, which was released October 28.
“Nutrients in fish can support a child’s brain and immune system development,” the FDA wrote.
The advice focuses on the important nutrients in seafood and the health benefits provided by consuming more fish and shellfish.
“The updated advice from the FDA is a move in the right direction,” said Linda Lai Cornish, President of Seafood Nutrition Partnership. “Too many women and children are missing out on the important health benefits from eating seafood. This revised language from the FDA encourages women and children to eat more seafood for their brain, heart and immune health.”
In a Q&A resource from the FDA, one question asks, “Should I not eat fish in order to avoid mercury?” The answer is emphatically “No” from the FDA. “Fish can contribute to a healthy diet. Studies with people who were pregnant found that the nutritional benefits of fish were important for their child’s brain development,” the answer goes on. “Most individuals, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children, eat less than the recommended amount of fish. Almost all children do not eat the recommended amount of fish.”
Done in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this update revises the advice that was last issued in 2019.
From the FDA constituent update:
For parents, caregivers, and people who are or might become pregnant or are breastfeeding, our advice can help them choose which fish to eat or serve their children and how much to eat based on mercury. The updated advice includes new information explaining that:
Children 1 year of age can eat about 1 ounce of fish 2 times a week (from the “Best Choices” list).
Fish intake during pregnancy is recommended because moderate scientific evidence shows it can help your baby’s cognitive development.
Fish provide key nutrients that children need for their brain, immune system, and spinal cord development. The nutrients omega-3 and omega-6 fats, iron, iodine, and choline support brain development. Choline also supports the development of the baby’s spinal cord. Iron and zinc support children’s immune systems.
Strong evidence shows that eating fish as part of a healthy diet may help your heart health. Moderate scientific evidence shows that healthy diets that include fish are associated with lowering the risk of becoming overweight or obese and the risk of hip fractures, colon cancer, and rectal cancer.
What’s Coming Up
As part of the FDA’s Closer to Zero action plan, our plan is to evaluate the current research on mercury in food—including fish—consumed by babies and young children, starting in 2022. As we evaluate these food sources, we will look more holistically at the role of fish in the diet, considering both components that are detrimental (such as mercury) and beneficial (such as nutrients) and evaluating their respective and interacting roles in child development. Our aim is to have the most up-to-date understanding of the science on fish consumption in a whole diet context, which will help us determine if and how to update our fish advice in the future.