Mothers told: "Eat fish! No wait, don't eat fish!"

should pregnant women eat fish?In an interesting turn of events, a coalition of top scientists announced yesterday that pregnant and nursing women should eat more fish.

The position is at odds with the FDA's 2001 recommendation, reiterated in 2004, that pregnant and nursing women should limit the amount of fish they eat in order to avoid mercury toxicity. Scientists from the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition said yesterday that the benefits derived from the omega-3 fatty acids in fish outweigh the risks of mercury poisoning; omega-3s contain nutrients important to developing brain and nervous systems.

Interestingly, the numbers aren't that different. The FDA recommends that pregnant and nursing women eat no more than 12 ounces of fish per week, while scientists yesterday recommended women eat at least 12 ounces per week.

So what's an expectant mom to do? Taken together, the scientists make it sound like 12 ounces per week is the magic number. And even that may be too much, unless you're eating only fish with low mercury content. And there's always supplements, although a colleague of mine points out that it's important to choose distilled fish oil if that's the route you decide to go.

And now for the obvious: how absurd is it that we should have to limit our consumption of one of the most nutritive foods there is because of man-made pollution? Maybe if we'd just stop spewing mercury into the water, we wouldn't have to worry so much about eating it.

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