Comsumption of fish by pregnant women related to lower anxiety levels

Anxiety is quite common in expecting mothers, with decisions like what to eat and what not to eat and other small and big decisions to be taken for your newly born.

However a recent study has shown that eating seafood and especially fish can help reduce the anxiety levels among pregnant women. According to a study by researchers at the UK’s Bristol University and Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, women who never eat seafood are likely to be 53% more anxious than the ones that have.

Study details:
The study by the researchers is the first of its kind to finally be able to find the correlation between diet pattern and anxiety levels during pregnancy. In particular this study points out the effects of consuming fish with high n-3 PUFA with lower levels of anxiety symptoms.

The researchers have analysed the diet of 9530 women and found that at 32 weeks gestation, women who never eat seafood are 53% more likely to have higher anxiety levels than those women who eat it regularly.

The women who participated in the study filled up a questionnaire about their daily food intake and their dietary measures followed during their pregnancy. The team of researchers measured the levels of anxiety at 32 weeks.

The researchers also revealed that vegetarian pregnant women were 25% more likely to develop anxiety than women eating a diet rich in meat and fish.

Another revelation according to the researchers was that people who followed a health conscious diet were at 23% lower risk than women who resorted to unhealthy food habits.

Experiencing severe stress during pregnancy has many harmful effects to the overall health of the mother and the baby. Stress leads to anxiety which may lead to low birth weight of the baby or a premature birth.

Findings of the study:
According to the findings of the study, a diet rich in meat and fish may cause less anxiety levels among women than those who follow a vegetarian diet considering that the nutritional needs increase during the time of pregnancy.

To find the correlation between consuming n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), typically found in fish and excessive levels of anxiety during pregnancy, the researchers conducted the study.

According to the cohort studies, the researchers have found that gestational anxiety results in low birth weight and premature births while excessive anxiety may have harmful effects on the neuro development of the baby during pregnancy.

How much fish to consume while pregnant:
The researchers form Bristol University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro claim, that the two portions of white fish and one portion of oily fish per week is enough to reduce the anxiety levels risk by a significant amount.

As per the National Health Service(NHS) guidelines, pregnant women should avoid fish such as shark, sword fish,king mackerel or tilefish because of high traces mercury found in them which may effect the overall development of the infant’s nervous system.

Fish which are low in mercury such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish can be consumed for lowering the anxiety levels. Not more than 12 ounces(approx 28 grams) per week is recommended.

The researchers advised the pregnant women to limit the consumption of certain kinds of fish while fish such as cod and plaice need not have any limits. The pregnant women should limit the consumption of oily fish such as salmon and mackerel to no more than 2 portions per week, along with non-oily fish such as sea bass.

Drl Juliana Vaz, senior author of the report said, “In order to have a healthy pregnancy, women need to follow a healthy diet and not something special for pregnancy,”.

“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.”

Study co-author Pauline Emmet told Psych Central said, “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.”

The study was recently published in PLOS ONE.