FDA Suggests Pregnant Women to Consume Low-Mercury Fish (Bing/ cherrylet/Flickr)
Women with higher levels of mercury also had higher levels of autoantibodies, certain proteins released by the body's immune system when it fails to identify healthy tissues. (Representational Image)Bing/ cherrylet/Flickr

The U.S. government's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined the nutritional benefits of consuming fish and suggested that pregnant women should increase their weekly consumption of fish. The recommendation was made on Tuesday for the first time by the FDA.

Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding and even young children should consume two to three servings of fish per week in order to provide healthy nutrition to both the woman and child. The FDA, however, recommends that the amount of mercury in fish should be less.

The National Resources Defense Council has provided the complete guideline for pregnant women and the amount of fish that should be consumed. Pregnant women and young children are those who are at their highest risk for exposure from mercury, according to a study. It is, therefore, important to know which fish contain the minimal, moderate and highest amount of mercury.

Fish with the minimal amount of mercury include butterfish, anchovies, catfish, clam, crab, flounder, haddock, crawfish, croaker, hake, mackerel, mullet, herring, oyster, pollock, salmon, perch, plaice, scallop, shad, sardine, shrimp, sole, talapid, squid, whitefish, trout and whiting.

Those with modest amounts of mercury and are safe for consumption including lobster, mahi mahi, bass, cod, snapper, halibut and tuna. Fish with minimal amount of mercury, contain less than .09 parts per million and those with moderate mercury contain between .09 and .29 parts per million, which is a good amount for consumption.

It is important to eat some portions of fish with moderate mercury as they contain good source of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, phosphate, vitamin D and B2, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and iodine.

"For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children. But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health." Washington Post quoted Stephen Ostroff, the FDA's acting chief scientist.

In addition to this, mercury does have some adverse health effects if consumed more than required. It may potentially damage the neurological development in infants and children. It may even cause poisoning among adults, which occurs over the time, if fish consumption is excessive.

Despite these harmful effects, the FDA confirms that the benefits of the fish overshadow the negative effects if one follows the new guidelines. FDA recommends about eight to 12 ounces of fish that are low in mercury to be consumed per week in order to help fetal growth and development.