Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Maternal fish and other seafood intakes during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment at age 4 years

Michelle A Mendeza1a2 c1, Maties Torrenta3, Jordi Julveza1, Nuria Ribas-Fitóa1, Manolis Kogevinasa1a2 and Jordi Sunyera1a2a4

a1 Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL)/Municipal Institute of Medical Research (IMIM-Hospital del Mar), 88 Dr Aiguader Street, Barcelona, E-08003, Spain

a2 CIBER Epidemiologia y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Spain

a3 Àrea de Salut de Menorca, IB_SALUT, Menorca, Spain

a4 Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain


Objective To analyse the relationship between maternal intakes of fish and other seafood during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment at age 4 years. Although pregnant women are advised to limit seafood intakes because of possible neurotoxin contamination, several studies suggest that overall maternal seafood intakes are associated with improved child neurodevelopment, perhaps because of higher DHA intakes.

Design The study uses data from a prospective birth cohort study. Maternal seafood intakes were assessed using a semi-quantitative FFQ administered shortly after delivery. Multivariate linear regression was used to estimate associations between seafood consumption and scores on the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities (MCSA). Analyses were stratified by breast-feeding duration as breast milk is a source of DHA during the postnatal phase of the brain growth spurt.

Setting Menorca, Spain, 1997–2001.

Subjects Full-term children (n 392) with data on maternal diet in pregnancy, breast-feeding duration and neurodevelopment at age 4 years.

Results Among children breast-fed for <6 months, maternal fish intakes of >2–3 times/week were associated with significantly higher scores on several MCSA subscales compared with intakes ≤1 time/week. There was no association among children breast-fed for longer periods. Maternal intakes of other seafood (shellfish/squid) were, however, inversely associated with scores on several subscales, regardless of breast-feeding duration.

Conclusions The study suggests that moderately high intakes of fish, but not other seafood, during pregnancy may be beneficial for neurodevelopment among children breast-fed for <6 months. Further research in other populations with high seafood intakes and data on additional potential confounders are needed to confirm this finding.

(Received March 27 2008)

(Accepted September 19 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email