London, May 22 : Instead of increasing risk of autism, eating fish twice a week during pregnancy may actually give newborns several nutritional benefits, suggests a new research.
The findings -- published in journal Molecular Autism -- found no evidence to support claims that mercury in fish is linked to the development of autism or autistic traits in newborns.
"All species of fish contain traces of mercury, which can harm brain development, but we have found that the health benefits of fish, probably from nutrients such as vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and iodine, outweigh the risks from mercury," said co-author Caroline Taylor from the University of Bristol in Britain.
For the study, the researchers examined the assumption that mercury exposure during pregnancy is a major cause of autism, using evidence from nearly 4,500 women.
They analysed blood samples, reported fish consumption and gathered information on autism and autistic traits from one of the largest longitudinal studies to date.
The researchers also found poor social cognition if mothers ate no fish at all, especially for baby girls.
"Our findings further endorse the safety of eating fish during pregnancy.
Importantly, we've found no evidence at all to support claims that mercury is involved in the development of autism or autistic traits," said lead author Jean Golding, Professor at the University of Bristol.
"This adds to a body of work that endorses eating of fish during pregnancy for a good nutritional start to life with at least two fish meals a week," Golding noted.