Association of Fish Consumption and Mercury Exposure During Pregnancy With Metabolic Health and Inflammatory Biomarkers in Children

Nikos Stratakis, David Conti, Eva Borras, Eduardo Sabido, Theano Roumeliotaki, Eleni Papadopoulou, Lydiane Agier, Xavier Basagana, Mariona Bustamante, Maribel Casas, Shohreh F. Farzan, Serena Fossati, Juan R. Gonzalez, Regina Grazuleviciene, Barbara Heude, Lea Maitre, Rosemary R. C. McEachan, Ioannis Theologidis, Jose Urquiza, Marina VafeiadiJane West, John Wright, Rob McConnell, Anne-Lise Brantsaeter, Helle-Margrete Meltzer, Martine Vrijheid, Leda Chatzi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This cohort study used data from the Human Early Life Exposome (HELIX) project, a collaboration of 5 European birth cohort studies, to examine the associations of maternal fish consumption and mercury exposure during pregnancy with metabolic health and inflammatory biomarkers in children.

Importance The balance of mercury risk and nutritional benefit from fish intake during pregnancy for the metabolic health of offspring to date is unknown. Objective To assess the associations of fish intake and mercury exposure during pregnancy with metabolic syndrome in children and alterations in biomarkers of inflammation in children. Design, Setting, and Participants This population-based prospective birth cohort study used data from studies performed in 5 European countries (France, Greece, Norway, Spain, and the UK) between April 1, 2003, and February 26, 2016, as part of the Human Early Life Exposome (HELIX) project. Mothers and their singleton offspring were followed up until the children were aged 6 to 12 years. Data were analyzed between March 1 and August 2, 2019. Exposures Maternal fish intake during pregnancy (measured in times per week) was assessed using validated food frequency questionnaires, and maternal mercury concentration (measured in micrograms per liter) was assessed using maternal whole blood and cord blood samples. Main Outcomes and Measures An aggregate metabolic syndrome score for children was calculated using the z scores of waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and levels of triglyceride, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and insulin. A higher metabolic syndrome score (score range, -4.9 to 7.5) indicated a poorer metabolic profile. Three protein panels were used to measure several cytokines and adipokines in the plasma of children. Results The study included 805 mothers and their singleton children. Among mothers, the mean (SD) age at cohort inclusion or delivery of their infant was 31.3 (4.6) years. A total of 400 women (49.7%) had a high educational level, and 432 women (53.7%) were multiparous. Among children, the mean (SD) age was 8.4 (1.5) years (age range, 6-12 years). A total of 453 children (56.3%) were boys, and 734 children (91.2%) were of white race/ethnicity. Fish intake consistent with health recommendations (1 to 3 times per week) during pregnancy was associated with a 1-U decrease in metabolic syndrome score in children (beta = -0.96; 95% CI, -1.49 to -0.42) compared with low fish consumption (

Question Is fish consumption during pregnancy associated with benefits for the metabolic health of children? Findings In this cohort study of 805 mothers and their singleton offspring, moderate fish consumption during pregnancy was associated with the downregulation of inflammation and improvements in the metabolic profile of children; high mercury exposure during pregnancy had the opposite associations. Meaning The results of this study suggest that fish consumption consistent with current recommendations during pregnancy was associated with improvements in the metabolic health of children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201007
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJama network open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2020


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