New Guidelines for Fish Intakes During Pregnancy from Health Canada

June 29, 2009


Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals – Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Health Canada (2009)


In view of increasing scientific evidence for the health benefits of consuming fish containing omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy , Health Canada has recently published guidelines and key messages on fish for women of childbearing age :

1) Have at least 150 grams (5 ounces) of cooked fish weekly (two 75-gram servings/week) as a source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (incl. salmon, trout,herring,canned light tuna, sole, others).

2) Vary the types of fish you eat and follow advice from Health Canada to limit your exposure to environmental contaminants such as mercury (caution regarding shark,swordfish,marlin,orange roughy, fresh and frozen tuna).

Dr. Holub's Comments:

The present guidelines from Health Canada can be expected to enhance fish consumption and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (as DHA plus EPA) during pregnancy . It should be pointed out , however, that no specific target intakes for DHA omega-3 as an essential nutrient were targeted such as has been done in other countries where DHA is regarded as an important nutrient for pregnant and lactating mothers. For example, the recommended average intake for DHA omega-3 during pregnancy and lactation via the European Commission (PERLIP) is 200 mg/day (Br. J. Nutr., 98: 873 (2007). Consuming 150 gm/week of Atlantic salmon (farmed) as recommended by Health Canada would readily meet this target by providing an average intake of 312 mg DHA/day whereas 150 gm/week of sole would provide only 55 mg DHA /day. It is noteworthy that 5 omega-3 shell eggs per week would provide similar amounts of DHA as compared to sole . Also, various functional foods and supplements containing DHA are optional sources of DHA for those wishing to reach target intakes of DHA (such as advised in Europe). By direct assessment, DHA intakes amongst Canadian women were found to average only 82 mg/day based on published research from our laboratory (Denomme et al., J. Nutr., 135: 206 (2005)).

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