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  • Dr Peter Chew

Fish and I.Q

I am now in my 4th month of pregnancy. My friends advise me to take a lot of fish so that my child can have a better I.Q. I do not like to eat fish. Besides, I am afraid that fish may contain toxic substances, like mercury, which are toxic for my baby. Can I take other types of food? Should I take supplements?


I presume you are referring to the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. They belong to a class of fatty acids called essential fatty acids which the body cannot produce and must be obtained from food.


Omega-3 fatty acids are the "good" fat that come in more than one form. The types found in fish, called DHA and EPA have the best health benefits. Another form known as ALA is found in vegetable oils, flaxseed, walnuts, and dark leafy vegetables.




Omega 3 fatty acids are important for building healthy cells and maintaining brain and nerve function. They are important for the intellectual and visual development of the fetus. They have been found to reduce the risks of pregnant mother getting high blood pressure and premature birth. Studies have also suggested that they reduce the chances of babies having intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)-a condition where the baby stops growing in the womb and remains small for the period of pregnancy. They also lower the incidence of maternal depression after birth.


Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as salmon, Pollock, tilapia, catfish, cod, anchovies, mackerel, sardines, sea bass and trout. World Health Organization recommends 1-2 servings of fish per week.


As you rightly pointed out, there are increasing levels of mercury in fish from pollution in the environment. Large “predator” type of fish such as swordfish and shark are unsafe for pregnant women.


Since you do not like fish, there are other sources of omega-3 such as egg yolks and meats, flaxseed, walnuts, canola and soybean.


Vitamin supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids may be another option. The supplements are absorbed more efficiently with meals. But you may have the side effects of a fishy breath, a fishy taste in your mouth, occasional nausea and stomach upset. If these side effects are too much to bear, you may try algae supplements. Algae that is commercially grown is generally safe, though blue-green algae in the wild may contain toxins.

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