Birth Weight Raises More Questions on Seafood Safety

By Burton, Adrian | Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2008 | Go to article overview
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Birth Weight Raises More Questions on Seafood Safety


Burton, Adrian, Environmental Health Perspectives


Women who eat too much shellfish before pregnancy, particularly crabs, and lobsters, may increase their chance of having babies who are small for their gestational age (SGA), report French scientists in an article posted online 24 October 2007 ahead of print in Environmental Health. Eating fish, however, seems to have the opposite effect. The findings further fuel the debate over how much and what types of fish and other seafood are beneficial to would-be moms.

"Some studies suggest the omega-3 fatty acids in fish and seafood are beneficial to fetal growth and birth weight," explains first author Laurence Guldner, an epidemiologist at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, University of Rennes, "but other report no benefit or even a negative effect." The new report could help explain these discrepancies, because the results distinguish between the effects of fish and shellfish, and between even more specific subcategories of seafood--something most earlier work did not do.

The study included 2,398 pregnant women in Brittany, France, who were part of the Pelagie cohort assembled to investigate effects of environmental pollutants on pregnancy, birth outcomes, and child health and development. The researchers gathered information on consumption in the year prior to pregnancy of saltwater fish (e.g., salmon), mollusks (e.g., oysters), large crustaceans (e.g., lobster), and small crustaceans (e.g., shrimp).

Statistical analysis, adjusted for a number of potential confounders, showed that women who ate 2 or more meals of shellfish per week had a statistically significant 2.14 greater likelihood of having an SGA baby (defined as having birth weight below the tenth percentile for a given gestational age and sex) compared with those who ate shellfish less than once per month.

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