Maternal mercury levels may be linked to a child's risk of ADHD

by Delbert Hodgins

Maternal mercury levels may be linked to a child's risk of ADHD

When you first get pregnant, your doctor may advise you to avoid eating certain foods, one of which may be fish with high levels of mercury. New research has found that children who were exposed to the toxic element during fetal development may be more likely to exhibit symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

This may be confusing, because on one hand, the protein and omega-3 fatty acids in fish are really good for you and your baby, but on the other, your doctor is telling you that it can be toxic. Seafood, in general, tends to be rich in important nutrients - and if you love it, you shouldn't feel as if you have to give it up for nine months. However, you may have to make some strategic choices of which kinds you consume. For instance, shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish contain high levels of mercury and should therefore be avoided. If too much of this element is consumed, it could potentially interfere with the development of the central nervous system.

Decrease your child’s risk of ADHD by selecting safe seafood

A new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that even low levels of mercury in pregnant women can increase their child's likelihood of having symptoms of ADHD. Researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analyzed the data of nearly 800 infants - who were born between 1993 and 1998. The scientists measured the mercury levels in maternal hair samples and surveyed the mothers about their child's behavior at age 8. They discovered that higher-than-average levels of mercury present in a mom's hair strand was linked to a higher risk for the attention disorder in her offspring.

"These findings underscore the difficulties pregnant women face when trying to balance the nutritional benefits of fish intake with the potential detriments of low-level mercury exposure," said researcher Susan Korrick, M.D.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that expectant moms eat a weekly maximum of 12 ounces of fish or shellfish that are low in mercury, such as canned light tuna, flounder and salmon.

Make smart eating choices

Once you're expecting a child, it's a good idea to start eating healthy, if you haven't already. You not only need to keep your body healthy, but your new son or daughter's as well. As hard as it may be to resist that bag of barbecue potato chips or pint of ice cream, you may want to stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits, veggies, lean meats and safe seafood options to give you a healthy, but satisfying alternative.

What are some healthy choices you snacked on during pregnancy? Did you find it easy to avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury? Leave your answers in the comments section!