OBJECTIVE: A well-publicized January 2001 federal advisory recommended that pregnant women limit consumption of certain fish because of concerns about mercury contamination. We endeavored to estimate the extent to which pregnant women changed fish consumption habits after dissemination of this national advisory.

METHODS: We performed interrupted time series analysis of data from a cohort of pregnant women (2235 who completed at least one dietary questionnaire) visiting obstetric offices in a multispecialty group practice in eastern Massachusetts, surveyed before the advisory from April 1999 through December 2000 and after the advisory from April 2001 through February 2002. Main outcome measures were consumption of total fish and of four fish types: canned tuna, dark meat fish, shellfish, and white meat fish. Subjects reported fish consumption on semiquantitative food frequency questionnaires administered at each trimester of pregnancy.

RESULTS: We observed diminished consumption of dark meat fish, canned tuna, and white meat fish after the national mercury advisory. These decreases resulted in a reduction in total fish consumption of approximately 1.4 servings per month (95% confidence interval 0.7, 2.0) from December 2000 to April 2001, with ongoing declines through the end of the study period. There was no change in shellfish intake.

CONCLUSION: After dissemination of federal recommendations, pregnant women in this cohort reported reduced consumption of fish, including tuna, dark meat fish, and white meat fish. Because these fish may confer nutritional benefits to mother and infant, public health implications of these changes remain unclear.

PMID: 12907111

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