Fish and shellfish are widely available foods that provide important nutrients, particularly n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), to many populations globally. These nutrients, especially docosahexaenoic acid, confer benefits to brain and visual system development in infants and reduce risks of certain forms of heart disease in adults. However, fish and shellfish can also be a major source of methylmercury (MeHg), a known neurotoxicant that is particularly harmful to fetal brain development. This review documents the latest knowledge on the risks and benefits of seafood consumption for perinatal development of infants. It is possible to choose fish species that are both high in n-3 PUFAs and low in MeHg. A framework for providing dietary advice for women of childbearing age on how to maximize the dietary intake of n-3 PUFAs while minimizing MeHg exposures is suggested.
© 2011 International Life Sciences Institute.