June 10, 2019
A new report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that children in the US don't eat enough fish, as they get more than 90 of their dietary protein from non-fish sources, especially red meat and chicken.
The report, titled "Fish, Shellfish, and Children's Health: An Assessment of Benefits, Risks, and Sustainability", said that despite the health benefits of fish and shellfish, many parents avoid feeding their children some fish mainly because of methylmercury (MeHg) pollution.
The report found seafood consumption by children has declined every year since 2007 to levels not seen since the early 1980s.
Fish and shellfish are good sources of low-fat protein rich in several essential vitamins and minerals, as well as, in certain instances, the essential nutrients omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFAs).
Childhood fish consumption has been associated with prevention of allergic disorders.
Fears not without basis
Parents' fears of MeHg pollution are not without basis. Most of the mercury found in humans comes from contaminated fish.
The study cited available evidence indicating that prenatal and, to a lesser extent in most cases, postnatal mercury exposure has been associated with decrements in memory, attention, language, IQ and visual-motor skills in childhood.
Besides mercury, several other pollutants commonly found in fish and shellfish have likewise raised concern for their detrimental health effects.
Most fish, however, have favorable nutritional and overall health qualities compared with other forms of animal protein, according to the report.
The report cited evidence-based expert guidance that largely advise seafood should have a larger place in the American diet. It quoted the recent scientific report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: "The Committee concurs with the Joint WHO/FAO Consultancy that, for the majority of commercial wild and farmed species, neither the risks of mercury nor organic pollutants outweigh the health benefits of seafood consumption, such as decreased cardiovascular disease risk and improved infant neurodevelopment".
However, it pointed out that any assessment evaluates evidence within a time frame and so, contaminant composition can change rapidly based on the contamination conditions at the location of wild catch and altered production practices for farmed seafood.
The report itself recommends that further research is needed to clarify the value of fish and shellfish consumption in childhood to health since "available research to substantiate specific health benefits from fish and shellfish consumption in children remains limited".