Pregnant Women: Time to Eat More Tuna

A government committee is calling on the FDA to revise its guidelines on eating tuna while pregnant, after study finds a certain kind is actually healthier for Baby.

Why You Should Eat More Tuna While Pregnant Josie Grant / Shutterstock

Eating tuna is a tricky one for pregnant women. On the one hand, it's packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help your baby's brain develop. On the other, it can be contaminated with mercury, which can cause brain damage in a growing fetus. It's the potentially higher mercury levels in the fish that has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to advise pregnant and nursing women to limit their tuna consumption to six ounces a week.

But this recommendation may change—for one specific kind of tuna, at least. The U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee just did an all-encompassing review of the country's dietary recommendations and found that the infant development and cardiovascular benefits to eating double that amount of albacore tuna, the type usually found in the canned stuff, while pregnant far outweighed the risks and has recommended that the FDA re-evaluate its guidelines.

Not everyone's happy about this. Michael Bender of the Mercury Policy Project hit back in a statement, claiming tuna to be "responsible for nearly seven times more mercury exposure than the four high-mercury fish that the Federal Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women not to eat." (Shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel are still no-gos for their high levels of mercury.)

Other experts point to the clear benefits of eating fish during pregnancy, even if it's tuna. Dr. Steve Abrams, a panel member involved in the recommendations, said "the benefit of having [omega-3 fatty acids] in your diet really exceeds the likely risk of contamination." Meanwhile, a Harvard study found that for each weekly serving of fish a mama-to-be ate while pregnant, the higher her baby's score on visual recognition memory tests.

The bottom line is, it's important to eat two to three servings of fish a week while pregnant. If it's tuna or nothing for you, then make sure you choose albacore. If you're worried about mercury, opt for low-mercury varieties like salmon, shrimp or tilapia. The good news is, it looks like tuna melts are back on the menu.