Eating fish may lower anxiety levels in pregnant women, a new study shows.

Researchers from Bristol University and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro followed the eating habits of more than 9,500 mothers-to-be and measured their anxiety levels.

Those who had oily fish one to three times per week were less likely to report high levels of anxiety, the study found.

In contrast, women who never ate seafood were 53 percent more likely to have high levels of anxiety compared with those who did.

While fish and shellfish are important parts of a healthy diet, the Food and Drug Administration cautions against pregnant women eating them in large quantities because nearly all of them contain traces of mercury, which can affect an infant's developing nervous system.

The FDA offers three guidelines:

  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish, as they have high mercury levels
  • Eat up to 12 ounces a week of varying fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury, such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish
  • Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family or friends in your local area

The study appeared online last week in PLOS One.

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