The EFSA released its new guidelines earlier this month, suggesting that children and adults eat at least two servings of seafood per week in order to increase their intake of healthy omega-3s, while pregnant women should boost their consumption to three or four servings per week in order to ensure healthy fetal growth.
The news comes on the heels of last month’s recommendation from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, which updated minimum recommendations for fish consumption to at least two to three servings per week.
“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But 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.”
The ESFA’s scientific opinion – a follow-up to a 2012 report - was issued at the request of the European Commission, which called on the agency to address the benefits of seafood consumption (intake of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids) as compared to the risks (exposure to contaminates like methyl-mercury and radiation).
In issuing its new opinion, the ESFA panel concluded that “consumption of about one to two servings of seafood per week and up to three to four servings per week during pregnancy has been associated with better functional outcomes of neurodevelopment in children compared to no consumption of seafood.” (Ref. 1)
Children have been shown to have better brain development – especially cognitive function and attention span – when exposed to the DHA in the oils of fatty fish, not only in early childhood, but also in utero.
“Poor maternal DHA status increases risk of inadequate DHA to support brain and retinal development, delaying or limiting neural and visual system development,” said researchers from the University of British Columbia in a 2007 study appearing in the journal Science Direct. (Ref. 2)
Seafood consumption has also been associated with a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease, the ESFA panel said in its “Scientific Opinion on health benefits of seafood (fish and shellfish) consumption in relation to health risks associated with exposure to methyl-mercury.” (Ref. 1)
Ultimately, the panel concluded that the benefits of seafood – it is a good source of protein and in addition to omega-3s, offers essential nutrients including iodine, selenium, calcium, and vitamins A and D – outweigh the risks, as long as fish consumption didn’t exceed the recommended limits.
Earlier this year, the EFSA recommended that women select from a wide variety of different fish in order to prevent taking in too many contaminants.
“EFSA recommends that women of childbearing age…select fish from a wide range of species, without giving undue preference to large predatory fish such as swordfish and tuna,” it said in a statement in March.
Previously, the EFSA recommended one to two servings of fish per week for pregnant women, avoiding those harvested from the Baltic Sea, which is heavily contaminated. (Ref. 3)
According to experts, the fish highest in contaminants such as mercury include swordfish, blue fin tuna, orange roughy, tilapia, salmon, flounder, sole, mackerel and halibut.
For those who are concerned about contaminants despite the new guidelines, fish oil supplements – such as our high-quality Omega-3 line – are an excellent alternative, provided that they are made from fish harvested from waters that are the least contaminated and are properly purified during production.
Ultimately, taking a fish oil supplement such as ours ensures that you get good levels of essential nutrients and omega 3’s like DHA without the risk of contaminants. Xtend-Life is a member of GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega 3’s) which is the leading global organization representing the industry. We meet and exceed all GOED standards, and are committed to providing our customers with only the best products.