Women who eat oily fish one to three times a week are less likely to be anxious than those who never eat it, according to a new study.
The findings, published in the Plos ONE journal, looked at the diets of 9,500 women who were 32-weeks pregnant. It found that women who never ate seafood were 53 per cent more likely to have high levels of anxiety than those who regularly ate seafood.
It separated women into five categories: health-conscious, those who ate salad, fruit, rice, pasta, fish, pulses, cheese, brown bread; traditional, those who ate vegetables, red meat, poultry; processed, those who ate sausages, burgers, fried foods, pizza, chips, white bread, eggs, baked beans; confectionery, women who mainly ate chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cakes, puddings and vegetarian, those who mainly ate meat substitutes, pulses, nuts, herbal tea and less red meat and poultry
The study was commissioned as not much is known about the relationship between eating fish and anxiety in pregnancy.
It found that women who followed the “health-concious” diets were least likely to report feelings of anxiety during pregnancy. And women who followed a strict vegetarian diet were 25 per cent more likely to suffer from anxiety than vegetarians who occasionally ate fish.
The NHS says there are two main limitations to these findings: “Firstly, diet and anxiety symptoms were assessed at the same time, therefore the researchers cannot tell whether the dietary patterns were established before the women started to experience anxiety or not.
“Secondly, the association may be being influenced by factors other than diet.”
It concludes that: “Overall, this study by itself cannot prove that your diet directly influences anxiety in pregnancy. However, the ‘health conscious’ and ‘traditional’ patterns of eating and diets including oily fish that were associated with lower anxiety in this study seem likely to be what would be considered a healthy balanced diet. And following a healthy diet is already known be important for the health of both mother and baby.”
Not all fish are suitable for pregnant women, the NHS recommends avoiding some types and limiting others.