"For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children," said Stephen Ostroff, the FDA's acting chief scientist.
That's why the FDA updated their recommendation to pregnant women regarding fish intake -- an update that was announced Tuesday. The last update came in 2004.
"Emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health," explained Ostroff.
The recommendation is qualified with the longstanding advice that pregnant women remain wary of heightened mercury intake. But the new guidance emphasizes that avoiding mercury doesn't have to mean steering clear of fish.
Even a fish like tuna is okay in moderate amounts.
"Importantly, the new FDA draft advice makes it clear that canned light tuna is recommended as a safe source of fish for pregnant women," Omaha-based pediatrician Laura Jana told NPR.
"In terms of convenience, this is great news ... it requires no advance planning and is unquestionably simple to prepare -- from tuna sandwiches to Tuna Tetrazzini or simply putting it atop a salad," Jana, author of the book Heading Home with Your Newborn, said.
The new guidelines are an attempt to reverse the trends in fish consumption among pregnant women. While it's good that mercury levels have dropped in pregnant women, doctors don't want that drop to come at the expense of the health fats and omega-3s that fish offer.
As Ostroff pointed out: "The health benefits far outweigh any risk."
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