September 09, 2008
Fish Consumption And Breast Feeding Boost Infant Brain Development

Eating fish during pregnancy and longer periods of breast feeding boost brain development.

BOSTON, Mass. (Sept. 9, 2008) Both higher fish consumption and longer breastfeeding are linked to better physical and cognitive development in infants, according to a study of mothers and infants from Denmark. Maternal fish consumption and longer breastfeeding were independently beneficial.

"These results, together with findings from other studies of women in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, provide additional evidence that moderate maternal fish intake during pregnancy does not harm child development and may on balance be beneficial," said Assistant Professor Emily Oken, lead author of the study.

The study, which appeared in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted by researchers from the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and the Maternal Nutrition Group from the Department of Epidemiology at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen, Denmark. These findings provide further evidence that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and compounds in breast milk are beneficial to infant development.

The study team looked at 25,446 children born to mothers participating in the Danish Birth Cohort, a study that includes pregnant women enrolled from 1997-2002. Mothers were interviewed about child development markers at 6 and 18 months postpartum and asked about their breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum. Prenatal diet, including amounts and types of fish consumed weekly, was assessed by a detailed food frequency questionnaire administered when they were six months pregnant.

During the interviews mothers were asked about specific physical and cognitive developmental milestones such as whether the child at six months could hold up his/her head, sit with a straight back, sit unsupported, respond to sound or voices, imitate sounds, or crawl. At 18 months, they were asked about more advanced milestones such as whether the child could climb stairs, remove his/her socks, drink from a cup, write or draw, use word-like sounds and put words together, and whether they could walk unassisted.

The children whose mothers ate the most fish during pregnancy were more likely to have better motor and cognitive skills. For example, among mothers who ate the least fish, 5.7% of their children had the lowest developmental scores at 18 months, compared with only 3.7% of children whose mothers had the highest fish intake. Compared with women who ate the least fish, women with the highest fish intake (about 60 grams - 2 ounces - per day on average) had children 25% more likely to have higher developmental scores at 6 months and almost 30% more likely to have higher scores at 18 months.

Longer duration of breastfeeding was also associated with better infant development, especially at 18 months. Breastmilk also contains omega-3 fatty acids. The benefit of fish consumption was similar among infants breastfed for shorter or longer durations.

Ladies, select fish that are low in mercury. Or take fish oil pills.

So then if fish consumption causes greater development of the anterior prefrontal cortex will the kids raised with more omega 3 fatty acids exercise more self control? Do fish boost free will?

Other ways to optimize brain development exist. Higher calcium consumption during pregnancy might reduce fetal lead exposure.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Pregnant women who take high levels of daily calcium supplements show a marked reduction in lead levels in their blood, suggesting calcium could play a critical role in reducing fetal and infant exposure.

A new study at the University of Michigan shows that women who take 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily have up to a 31 percent reduction in lead levels.

Women who used lead-glazed ceramics and those with high bone lead levels showed the largest reductions; the average reduction was about 11 percent, said Howard Hu, chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the School of Public Health.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 September 09 11:14 PM  Brain Development


Comments
Ted said at September 10, 2008 2:35 AM:

My wee one has been following the omega-3 recommendations since she was a fetus. She has NO signs of being able to delay gratification, and in fact she's quite novel at finding ways to get instant satisfaction by subverting our best efforts after only a few exposures. These studies neglect to warn fathers they need to step their own Omega-3 consumption to be able to cognitively keep up with their little fishheads' machinations and subversions of parental strictures.

Brett Bellmore said at September 10, 2008 4:14 PM:

That's the mercury end of things. Here's the Omega 3 end:

http://www.thepaleodiet.com/nutritional_tools/omega3.shtml

Notice that salmon, particularly canned, combines a very low mercury level with a pretty high omega 3 level. Anchovies aren't bad, either, we make a point of having them on our pizza. But you might as well not bother with many of the fish species, the omega 3 levels are too low to count. If you use omega 3 enhanced eggs, the breading will have more than the fish!

Clayton said at September 18, 2008 6:56 PM:

Unless I am retarded, ALA content in eggs does not equal that of fish, which is EPA and DHA. DHA is the fat found in your brain, about 30% of your brain is DHA. The conversion of ALA to DHA is between .1%-1%. So unless you are only eating the tail of the fish, or just it's scales, it has more of the biologically active fat in it than eggs. But then again I may be just bad at math, where less is more.

BTW look at sardines as a good source of N-3, or w-3 or omega 3 depending on your literary pic. 1 can is equal to about 1500mg of combined EPA and DHA.

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