Expectant mothers who never eat seafood are more likely to have high levels of anxiety than women who eat it often, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the journal Plos ONE, showed that expectant mothers who never eat seafood are 53 percent more likely to have high levels of anxiety than those who do. Researchers surveyed 9,500 women about their diet; anxiety measurements were taken during the 32nd week of pregnancy.
The researchers also found that vegetarians were 25 percent more likely to have anxiety than women ingesting a diet high in meat and fish.
Also, women who were more health-conscious in their diet were at 23 percent lower risk than those with unhealthy eating habits.
Although many women experience stress during pregnancy, high levels of anxiety can have a harmful effect on their long-term health and raise the risk of their baby being born prematurely and at a low weight.
The study suggests that the lack of meat and fish in a vegetarian diet could raise the likelihood of anxiety during pregnancy since nutritional needs increase during this time.
Two portions of white fish and one of oily fish per week would be enough to significantly reduce the risk, said the researchers from Bristol University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The National Health Service guidelines recommend that pregnant women avoid certain types of fish including shark and swordfish, and eat no more than four cans of tuna per week, because they contain high mercury levels which can harm babies’ development.
It is also suggested that pregnant women eat no more than two portions of oily fish such as salmon or mackerel per week, along with certain non-oily fish including sea bass, but there is no need to limit other types of white fish such as cod and plaice.
“In order to have a healthy pregnancy, women need to follow a healthy diet and not something special for pregnancy,” said Drl Juliana Vaz, senior author of the report.
“It means a diet containing whole cereals, vegetables, salad, fruit, dairy foods, meat, poultry, pulses and including fish – three portions per week with at least one of oily fish, such as salmon, sardine or tuna.”
Pauline Emmett, Ph.D., co-author of the report, added, “It is possible, but not proved, that this association with fish is due to the omega-3 fatty acid content of the fish.”
“Some vegetarians are happy to eat fish from time to time and we would encourage this especially as we are not sure what ingredient in fish is the most effective.”
Source: Plos ONE