LONDON: Pregnant women who eat fish are more likely to have healthier and more meritorious infants and also women who breastfeed their babies for longer periods, according to a study.
"These results, together with findings from other studies of women in the US and UK, provide additional evidence that moderate maternal fish intake during pregnancy... may be beneficial," said Emily Oken, co-author of the study and an assistant professor at Harvard.
The study was conducted by researchers of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and 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 for 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.
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 percent of their children had the lowest developmental scores at 18 months, compared with only 3.7 percent of children whose mothers had the highest fish intake.
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.
The study appeared in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.