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Pregnancy Jitters Tied to a Poor Fish Diet, Study Reports

Update Date: Jul 15, 2013 09:40 AM EDT

Although pregnancy and birth are joyous experiences in women's lives, they can also be highly stressful and unpredictable. Women who are pregnant for the very first time might be prone to higher anxiety levels since everything about pregnancy might come as a surprise. Anxiety levels can increase stress levels dramatically, which could be detrimental for both mother and child. In a new study, researchers suggest that one's diet during pregnancy could affect one's anxiety and stress levels. The research team from the Children of the 90s at the University of Bristol and the Federal University of Rio de Janiero in Brazil found that pregnant women who ate very low amounts of fish or none at all experienced higher levels of anxiety.

For this study, the team analyzed the diets of over 9,500 pregnant women. The diets were categorized into five groups, which were health-conscious, traditional, processed, confectionery and vegetarian. A health-conscious diet involved a good amount of fruits, vegetables, oats, grains and fish. A traditional diet included red meat, poultry, vegetables and potatoes. A processed diet was high in processed meats, fried foods, chips, white bread and baked beans. A confectionary diet involved high sugar intake sourced from chocolate and desserts. Vegetarians ate vegetables, meat substitutes and nuts. Within each group, the researchers also measured fish intake. They found that pregnant women who did not consume seafood had a 53 percent higher risk of experiencing high levels of anxiety at 32 weeks when compared to women who ate seafood.

The researchers also found that women in the top third percentage of the vegetarian group were 25 percent more likely to have anxiety issues when compared to the vegetarians in the bottom third of the group. For the health-conscious group, women in the top third were 23 percent less likely to suffer from high levels of anxiety when compared to the bottom third of the women in this diet group. Under the traditional diet group, women at the top were 16 percent less likely to have high levels of anxiety than women at the bottom.

Based from the results, in which the team accounted for 14 possible contributing variables, the researchers recommend pregnant women to intake two meals of white fish and one meal of an oily fish per week. Some of the factors included smoking, drinking and family history.

"An important message from this research is that in order to have a healthy pregnancy, women need to follow a healthy diet and not something special for pregnancy. It means a diet containing whole cereals, vegetables, salad, fruit, dairy foods, meat, poultry, pulses and including fish - three portions per week with at least one of oily fish, such as salmon, sardine or tuna. Sweets and fast-foods should be kept to a minimum because they are low in nutrients," explained the senior author of the paper, Dr. Juliana Vaz according to Medical Xpress.

The researchers remind women to consult their physicians if they have diet concerns during pregnancy. The paper, "Dietary Patterns, n-3 fatty acids intake from seafood and high levels of anxiety symptoms during pregnancy: findings from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children," is available at PLOS ONE

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