Deakin University

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Prenatal mercury exposure, fish intake and child emotional behavioural regulation in the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study

journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-13, 01:21 authored by Kristine Vejrup, Anne-Lise Brantsæter, Helle Margrete Meltzer, Mohammadreza Mohebbi, Helle Katrine Knutsen, Jan Alexander, Margareta Haugen, Felice JackaFelice Jacka
ObjectiveWhile maternal fish consumption in pregnancy has consistently been linked to better cognitive and emotional outcomes in children, fish is also a primary source of exposure to methyl mercury (MeHg), which has been linked to poorer child cognitive outcomes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the associations between MeHg exposure, using calculated MeHg exposure from maternal diet and total mercury (Hg) concentration in maternal blood during pregnancy, and child internalising and externalising behaviours at 3 and 5 years of age.Design and participantsThe study sample comprised 51 238 mother–child pairs in the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study. Data on maternal blood Hg concentration in gestational week 18 were available for a sub-sample of 2936 women. Maternal MeHg exposure from diet was calculated from a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire answered in mid-pregnancy. Mothers reported children’s emotional behaviour at age 3 and 5 years by questionnaires including twenty items from the Child Behaviour Checklist. Longitudinal associations were examined using generalised estimating equations, adjusted for potential confounders and stratified by maternal fish intake.ResultsMaternal blood Hg concentration (median=1.02 µg/L, 90th percentile=2.22, range=0–13.8) was not associated with emotional behaviour in children. Increasing dietary MeHg intake (median 0.15 µg/kg body weight/week, 90th percentiles=0.31, range=0–1.86) was significantly associated with lower internalising β=−0.03 (95% CI −0.05 to –0.00) and externalising child behaviours β=−0.04 (95% CI −0.07 to –0.02) in adjusted models. The inverse associations were also apparent when stratifying by low/high maternal fish intake (<400 and ≥400 g/week).ConclusionsThe results indicated that prenatal MeHg exposure, well below the weekly tolerable intake established by European Food Safety Authority (1.3 µg/kg bw), did not adversely affect child emotional regulation. Children of mothers consuming fish regularly were less likely to show signs of emotional behavioural problems.



BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health









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