Pregnancy and seafood discussion paper

Humans exploit non-toxic fishes and other aquatic organisms for consumption, as seafood is abundant in many essential nutrients. Seafood consists of all osteichthyes, some chondrichthyes like sharks and rays; cyclostomes like lampreys; crustaceans like crab, lobster, and shrimp; mollusks such as octopus, squid, oysters, abalones, clams, and others; particular groups of jellyfishes; echinoderms like sea cucumber; sea turtles, and several other organisms. Important marine fishes are salmon, halibut, sardines, tuna, and mackerels. During pregnancy, eating seafood is a great method to receive the nutrients that a developing fetus requires. Seafood is one of the few foods that contain omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid, a beneficial oil which is essentially required for development of brain and eyes of the fetus. They are also rich sources of proteins, fatty acids, and other essential micronutrients like zinc, iodide, phosphorous, calcium, and selenium. The US food and drug administration (FDA) recognizes seafood as an integral part of a daily, well-balanced diet.

Seafood, especially fishes, has been recognized as the ‘nature’s wonder food’ by the food and agriculture Organisation (FAO). Hence, it is because of the manifold benefits; seafood confers on human health. It is low in calories, high in proteins, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

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Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem that the majority of the population faces. It leads to osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children. However, studies show that consuming seafood like cooked salmon and cod liver oil meets the daily recommended dose of vitamin D. It helps strengthen bones and muscles.

Due to essential fatty acids, seafood keeps cholesterol levels in check, lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disorder.

Seafood maintains proper neuronal functioning and is associated with strengthening memory and learning.

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids in seafood increase the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs and help alleviate depression, bipolar disorders, and other psychiatric conditions.

Seafood can reduce the risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus, asthma, and some autoimmune disorders in children and adults.

Safe Seafood Choice during Pregnancy
Seafood is extremely rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These are omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to a significant fraction of the cerebral cortex. Thus, they are indispensable in fetal and neonatal neurological development.

These fatty acids in seafood enhance dendritic arborization and upregulate the expression of genes involved in neurogenesis. It is also associated with improving neurotransmission, cognition, neuronal plasticity, memory, and learning.

The recommended dose of seafood for a pregnant woman is 8-12 ounces, which is approximately 340 grams a week. Statistical observations showed that if the mothers consumed less than 340g of seafood during pregnancy, their children showed low intelligent quotient (IQ), depleted social development scores, poor communication ability, and other neurological problems.

These neonates also exhibited certain peroxisomal defects, impaired myelination, and mental retardation.

The proteins in seafood help in the growth and development of fetuses. The essential micronutrients that enrich seafood are necessary for their proper bone development.

Nutritionists recommend seafood with high omega-3 fatty acid content and low mercury. Hence, it is safe to consume small fishes that have less bioaccumulation of mercury.

The examples of safe seafood to be consumed during pregnancy are salmons, sardines, herrings, freshwater trout, shrimp, cod, catfishes, canned light tuna. However, it is wise to limit tuna consumption to less than 170 grams a week.

It is required to cook the seafood properly before consumption. Overcooking can lead to a loss of nutritional values.

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