A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2016 | Number 1, Volume 30

Maternal fish intake above U.S. recommended level may be beneficial

While pregnant women are cautioned against eating large amounts of fish because of its mercury content, a new study indicates that a maternal diet moderately high in fish can have beneficial effects on children’s neuropsychological development and may help protect against autism. 

Jordi Julvez and colleagues analyzed the diets of pregnant women participating in a Spanish study and evaluated 1,892 of their children at the age of 14 months and 1,589 at five years of age. Overall, the researchers report, that consumption of seafood above the 340 grams per week recommended by U.S. guidelines was associated with improvements in children’s neuropsychological scores. 

They add, “As a new finding, a consistent reduction in autism-spectrum traits was also observed with total, lean, and large fatty fish consumption. These associations generally remained positive above the level recommended by the current U.S. guidelines.” 

The researchers conclude, “The present results suggest no adverse associations of high seafood consumption in pregnancy with offspring neurodevelopment. Moderate consumption of small and large fatty fish and lean fish during pregnancy is associated with moderate improvements in child neuropsychological development, including cognitive functions and autism-spectrum traits.” However, they note that “a slight dilution of the association at the highest intake levels may be indicative of a weak counterbalancing association due to the potential harm of related contaminants.”


“Maternal consumption of seafood in pregnancy and child neuropsychological development: A longitudinal study based on a population with high consumption levels,” Jordi Julvez, Michelle Méndez, Silvia Fernandez-Barres, Dora Romaguera, Jesus Vioque, Sabrina Llop, Jesus Ibarluzea, Monica Guxens, Claudia Avella-Garcia, Adonina Tardón, Isolina Riaño, Ainara Andiarena, Oliver Robinson, Victoria Arija, Mikel Esnaola, Ferran Ballester, and Jordi Sunyer, American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 183, No. 3, January 2016, 169-82 (online). Address: Jordi Julvez, ISGlobal, Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona Biomedical Research Park, C. Doctor Alguader 8, 08003 Barcelona, Spain, [email protected].