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Pregnant Women who eat too much Fish increase Obesity Risk for their Children, Study Says

Update Date: Feb 16, 2016 10:37 AM EST

Pregnant women who report high levels of fish consumption tend to have children with higher body mass indexes (BMIs), a new study found.

In this study, the researchers examined 26,184 new mothers from 10 European countries - Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Spain - and Massachusetts in the United States. They collected data on the women's eating habits during pregnancy, weight before pregnancy, age, education level and smoking habits - if any.

After the women gave birth, which occurred from 1996 to 2011, the researchers tracked the babies' growth, measured by weight and height. The team also looked into whether or not the infants were breastfed.

The researchers found that pregnant women who ate fish at least three times per week had a 22 percent increased chance of having an overweight or obese child by the time the child reached six-years-old. This group of women was also 22 percent more likely to give birth to children who had rapid growth within their first two years of life.

Although the researchers did not find what might be contributing to the children's growth rate, they argue that since fish tend to be contaminated with hormone-disrupting chemicals, like mercury, these chemicals could have affected the children while they were in the womb.

The team noted, however, that the findings only suggest an association and not a cause-and-effect relationship.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advised women in 2014 to keep their weekly fish consumption at two to three services. The federal agencies also recommended pregnant women to avoid eating fish that could have high levels of mercury, such as swordfish and mackerel.

The study was published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics.

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