A new study supports the theory that the detrimental effects of low-level exposure to mercury may be outweighed by the beneficial effects of fish consumption.
The study finds little evidence of harm in infants whose mothers had low fish consumption and low mercury exposure. In fact, infants of mothers with higher mercury exposure during pregnancy and who consumed more fish had better attention and needed less special handling during a newborn exam. This likely was due to the beneficial nutritional effects of fish consumption, according to the researchers.
“The better neurobehavioral performance observed in infants with higher mercury biomarkers should not be interpreted as a beneficial effect of mercury exposure, which is clearly neurotoxic,” says Kim Yolton, PhD, a researcher at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and senior author of the study. “It likely reflects the benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acid intake that also comes from fish and has been shown to benefit attention, memory, and other areas of development in children. In our study, mercury exposure was very low, primarily due to consumption of fish low in mercury, so the detrimental effects might have been outweighed by the beneficial effects of fish nutrition.”