We’ve all heard the news that mercury is bad for our health and particularly for the health of pregnant women. But the result of a recent study, which illustrates an unexpected impact resulting from even low levels of mercury exposure, shows that prenatal mercury exposure is linked to ADHD in children. Oddly, however, the same fish that can carry mercury also seem to counteract this effect.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, tested the levels of mercury in new mothers. After eight years, the researchers then administered tests to the children of the mothers participating in the study to determine whether or not they exhibited ADHD. The results showed a 60% increase in risk for ADHD-related behaviors in the children studied. Specifically, according to senior study author Dr. Susan Korrick, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, “A hair-mercury level in the mother of about 1 part per million (ppm) or more was associated with a 60% increased risk of ADHD-related behavior.” But making matters confusing, the study also tracked fish consumption in the mothers — and the moms who ate more than two servings of fish per week had children who were less likely to exhibit ADHD-related behaviors. Read on to learn why.

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Susan A. Korrick, MD, MPH, explained the conundrum to Fox News: “It may have been due to the nutritional value of fish essentially having a more prominent, beneficial effect than the adverse effect of the low levels of mercury in the fish. The message is, it’s a good thing to eat fish while pregnant but mothers should be focused on eating fish that’s low in mercury.”

The study illustrates the challenge for a mother-to-be in determining diet. Balancing fish intake for its benefits while protecting against the potential negative consequences is something every mother should take into account. Pregnant women should to their doctor or midwife before making any changes to their diet, to help make sure that they are eating an optimal diet that is beneficial to themselves and their growing baby.

+ Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine

via Empower Her

images from Wikipedia Commons and  Phil Coleman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service