“Fish are part of a healthy diet and provide important nutrients during pregnancy, lactation and/or early childhood to support a child’s brain development,” the FDA reiterated in guidelines published Oct. 28.
The updated advice includes new information explaining that consuming fish provides essential omega-3 and -6 fats, iodine (during pregnancy), choline for the development of the baby’s spinal cord, iron and zinc to support the immune system. of children and other nutrients such as protein, provides vitamin B12. and D, and selenium.
It also cites “strong evidence shows that eating fish as part of a healthy diet can help your heart health,” and “moderate scientific evidence shows that healthy eating fish is associated with lowering risk.” on overweight or obesity and the risk of hip fractures, colon cancer and rectal cancer.”
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While the updated guideline did not change the recommended servings or serving sizes for frequency of consumption, it clarified that one-year-olds can eat about an ounce of fish twice a week from the FDA’s “Best Choices” list, which includes anchovies, Atlantic mackerel, catfish, cockles, crab, crawfish, flounder, haddock, mullet, oysters, plaice, pollock, salmon, sardines, scallops, shad, shrimp, sole, squid, tilapia, trout and whiting.
As kids grow, so does their portion size with recommendations for 4- to 7-year-olds doubling to 2 ounces, 8- to 10-year-olds can have 3 ounces, and kids 11 and older can have 4 ounces, according to the FDA.
The guideline also confirms that pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume two to three 4-ounce servings from the “Best Choices” list every week or one serving from the “Good Choices” list every week.
Other than naming the subset of “Best Choices” fish, which are listed in the dietary guidelines for Americans as “even lower in mercury,” the FDA hasn’t changed the way it categorized the different types of fish on its map — including also “Good choices” and “choices to avoid” due to higher mercury levels. It also didn’t change the fish on any list.
‘A step in the right direction’
The updated guideline was praised by industry stakeholders for helping clarify a historically confusing nutritional decision for pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children, who for decades have been advised to avoid seafood due to concerns about the build-up of toxic elements. , including mercury.
“The FDA’s updated advice is a step in the right direction,” Linda Lai Cornish, president of the Seafood Nutrition Partnerships, said in a statement.
She explained: “Too many women and children are missing out on the important health benefits of eating seafood. This revised language from the FDA encourages women and children to eat more seafood for their brains, heart and immune systems.”
Closer to Zero action plan includes re-evaluation of mercury in fish
While this update is based on the best data currently available, the FDA has acknowledged that it will continue to assess the mercury in fish — and all foods consumed by babies and young children as part of its Closer to Zero action plan. which has taken off in response to concerns about heavy metals and toxins in baby food.
Beginning next month, the FDA says it will “take a more holistic look at the role of fish in the diet, taking into account both harmful (such as mercury) and beneficial (such as nutrients) and their respective and interacting roles in the development of children will be evaluated.
“Our goal is to have the most current understanding of the science on fish consumption in a whole food context, which will help us determine if and how our fish advice needs to be updated in the future.”