“For most types of seafood, the nutritional benefits far outweigh the risks…in general, the best choices should be sustainably caught or raised fish and shellfish” – American Academy of Pediatrics
By Fabian Dawson
American children are eating relatively little fish and shellfish in comparison to meat, according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP report – “Fish, Shellfish, and Children’s Health: An Assessment of Benefits, Risks, and Sustainability” – outlines evidence on the health advantages of eating fish while helping pediatricians point parents to the safest sources.
Seafood consumption by U.S. children has declined every year since 2007, the report stated.
“The main reason many families avoid feeding their children fish, and women avoid it during pregnancy, is methylmercury pollution. Eating contaminated fish can have harmful effects on a child’s developing nervous system,” the authors wrote.
However, the AAP says exposure to mercury in fish can be minimized or avoided, based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency guidance.
The agencies recommend children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, eat 1-2 weekly servings of a variety of fish among the “best” and “good” choices identified. Families who eat freshwater fish they catch locally should check advisories and limit servings to once a week, if the body of water where they fish is not monitored.
The AAP also recommends that the sustainability of different types of fish and shellfish be factored into seafood choices. Some of the world’s fishing grounds are being over-harvested. In certain regions, especially for shrimp farming, child labor and environmentally damaging practices are used.
In general, the best choices should be sustainably caught or raised fish and shellfish, according the AAP.
“For families who eat meat, fish should be a welcome part of a child’s diet,” said the report’s lead author Dr. Aaron Bernstein, an executive committee member of the AAP Council on Environmental Health.
“We’re encouraging pediatricians to ask families about fish and shellfish consumption–since most children don’t eat much beyond the occasional fish sticks–and advise them on the healthiest choices.”
Dr. Bernstein said learning about different types of fish and shellfish, and adding more of it to children’s diets, should be a goal of every family.
“For most types of seafood, the nutritional benefits far outweigh the risks,” he said.
The AAP said good choices for seafood are salmon, trout and herring, considered low in mercury and high in brain-boosting DHA.
Both farmed and wild salmon have similar amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids which improves brain function and overall health according to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture)
Other types of seafood considered “best choices” include shrimp, cod, catfish, crab, scallops, pollock, tilapia, whitefish, trout, perch, flounder, sole, sardine, anchovy, crawfish, clams, oyster, and lobster.