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Can J Diet Pract Res. 2010 Spring;71(1):41-5.

Risks and benefits of fish consumption for childbearing women.

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  • 1Environmental Protection Office, Toronto Public Health, Toronto, ON.


Pregnant women's fish consumption provides both benefits and risks to the developing fetus. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from fish may enhance fetal neurodevelopment, while methylmercury (MeHg) can have detrimental effects. Dietitians would benefit from information on the frequency with which fish species may be consumed to increase DHA intake among Canadian women of childbearing age, and on minimizing the risks from MeHg, especially for those who consume fish frequently. Eighteen fish species were selected for DHA and mercury analysis from retail markets in the Toronto area. Consumption scenarios using analytical results for these fish species indicate that women of childbearing age can consume nine of 18 fish species every day (14 servings a week) or often (up to four servings a week) and remain below toxicological benchmarks for mercury. Moreover, women can also attain the recommended DHA level by consuming six of those nine fish: four 75-g servings of smelt, porgie, or bluefish a week, or two 75-g servings of milkfish, silver pomfret, or tilapia a day. Our analysis indicates that the DHA level recommended for childbearing women can be attained through fish consumption alone, without the need for supplementation and without posing a risk to the woman (or the fetus) from mercury.

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