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FDA Sets Comment Period for Seafood Guides for Pregnant Moms

By on January 27, 2015 in National Health News with 0 Comments
“The national average for seafood consumption amongst pregnant women is currently less than two ounces per week,” said a pregnant Margaret Henderson, executive director of the Gulf Seafood Institute. “The FDA is proposing to align their recommendations to be consistent with federal policy that finds new and expectant moms should quadruple the the current amount of seafood they’re eating.” Photo: Henderson Strategies

“The national average for seafood consumption amongst pregnant women is currently less than two ounces per week,” said a pregnant Margaret Henderson, executive director of the Gulf Seafood Institute. “The FDA is proposing to align their recommendations to be consistent with federal policy that finds new and expectant moms should quadruple the the current amount of seafood they’re eating.” Photo: Henderson Strategies

by Ed Lallo/Gulf Seafood News

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed a new analysis supporting and encouraging pregnant and nursing moms to eat in a manner consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation to add seafood to their diet, including healthy Gulf seafood choices. Before the agency issues its final advice it will seek input from the FDA Risk Communication Advisory Committee and conduct a series of focus groups, as well as accept public comments.

Stephen Ostroff

“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. Photo: FDA

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines encourage new and expectant moms to consume 12 ounces of seafood per week. This is a significant change from the FDA’s previous 2004 advice advising moms to eat no more than 12 ounces of seafood. The agency’s new guidelines recommends this group of women boost their intake of fish dramatically.

“The national average for seafood consumption amongst pregnant women is currently less than two ounces per week,” said a pregnant Margaret Henderson, executive director of the Gulf Seafood Institute. “The FDA is proposing to align their recommendations to be consistent with federal policy that finds new and expectant moms should quadrouple the current amount of seafood they’re eating.  Both the Gulf and the U.S. seafood industry provide delicious options to meet the anticipated growing demand by mothers who want to ensure their children are healthy.”

FDA Data From Pregnant Women

An FDA analysis of seafood consumption data from more than 1,000 pregnant women in the United States found 21 percent of them ate no fish in the previous month, and those who ate fish ate far less than the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends.

“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting chief scientist. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”

Brenna

“Fish and shellfish are low in fat, high in protein and good sources of iodine, vitamin D and selenium, deficient in many Western diets,” said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at Cornell University. Photo: Tom Brenna

Clinical research has indicated that “good fats,” particularly polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, offer extraordinary and unique health benefits. Two of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and severity of heart and retinal diseases.  Children born to mothers who ate omega-3 seafood during pregnancy experienced better functioning brain and nervous systems, and do better in school.

Popular fish containing Omega-3 fatty acids include Gulf shrimp and oysters, as well as pollock, salmon, canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod.

“Fish and shellfish are low in fat, high in protein and good sources of iodine, vitamin D and selenium, deficient in many Western diets,” said Tom Brenna, Professor of Human Nutrition at and a current member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.  “Over the past decade, the evidence consistently shows that seafood is an important part of a healthy diet, particularly for pregnant women and people with heart disease. The key is to meet the Dietary Guidelines advice to eat a variety of fish and shellfish each week.”

Special populations – pregnant women, children and people with heart disease—are likely to benefit from eating more seafood. Federal nutrition guidelines for pregnant women recommend the consumption of an average of two to three seafood meals per week, incorporating a variety of fish and shellfish. The most critical period is the second half of pregnancy and throughout nursing.

Gulf States Moms Should Follow Guidelines

“Expectant mom’s living in Texas and the Gulf States will have no trouble following the new seafood guidelines,” said the University of Texas Southwestern’s assistant clinical professor Dr. Karen Swenson, an Austin OB/Gyn. “The purpose of these guidelines is to provide needed nutrition for the developing brain of the fetus, especially in the last 10 weeks of the pregnancy.”

Dr Swenson

“Expectant mom’s living in Texas and the Gulf States will have no trouble following the new seafood guidelines,” said the University of Texas Southwestern’s assistant clinical professor Dr. Karen Swenson, an Austin OB/Gyn. Photo: Seton Healthcare Family

According to the former chief of staff for the Seton Medical Center Austin and president of the medical staff for the Seton Healthcare Family, there is an abundance of Gulf fish and shellfish rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids and low in environmental contaminant. “The recommendations for women who are pregnant, attempting pregnancy or breast feeding, is that they should consume 8-12 ounces per week, including shrimp, oysters, pollock, tilapia, catfish, cod and salmon all found in our nearby Gulf. The Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential for optimal brain and nervous system development for a growing fetus. It is better to achieve this basic nutrition naturally through our diet.  The American Congress of Obstetrician’s and Gynecologists fully support this recommendation,” she said.

The FDA recommends serving fish to young children two to three times per week, but the portion sizes should be smaller than adult portions and right for the child’s age and appetite. Parents should feed fish to young children only after six months of age because fish, particularly shellfish, are regarded as major allergens. Parents feeding fish to their children for the first time should monitor for signs of an allergic reaction before feeding a second time.

Mary Landrieu

In 2011, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was among several leading members of the U.S. Senate urging President Obama to reconcile the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Photo: Sen. Landrieu

In 2011, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu was among several leading members of the U.S. Senate urging President Obama to reconcile the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advice with the outdated FDA-EPA 2004 report.

“Since 2010, we have all known that pregnant women are not eating enough seafood.  The recent FDA guidance is a good first step towards providing consistent federal recommendations, but we must set the record straight with clear, concise language about the critical role seafood consumption can play in the brain and eye development of unborn children,” Landrieu told Gulf Seafood News. “Expectant mothers deserve accurate, reliable information during their pregnancy, and I will continue working with doctors and other healthcare professionals throughout the public comment period to ensure that this guidance meets that goal.”

Public comment can provide comment on the draft advice by submitting comments to the Federal Register docket or by participating in public meetings. The comment period will be open until 30 days after the last transcript from the advisory committee meeting. Dates of the public meetings, as well as when the public comment period, is published in the Federal Register notices at www.federalregister.gov.

“Seafood is among the most nutrient dense foods”, says Brenna. “I personally always enjoy Gulf seafood during my frequent visits to the region and encourage everyone to take advantage of this outstanding natural resource.”

 


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