Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
The role of prenatal influences on development can be profound. But it is still a very murky science, as was beautifully illustrated in Annie Murphy Paul’s “Origins: How The Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives”. Case in point: a new study that looks at the role of prenatal exposure to mercury and risk for ADHD.
Forget about the study details – let’s cut to the two bottom lines of the study. First, documented mercury exposure during pregnancy (validated using gold standard methods) was indeed predictive of risk for ADHD in the offspring. Second, eating fish during pregnancy, which is sometimes thought to be a risk factor for mercury exposure, was protective with respect to ADHD.
So…what does a pregnant woman do with these findings?
Well, right now, not too much. This study did not identify the sources of mercury exposure, so it’s hard to say how to prevent it. And it’s not entirely clear which type of fish to eat, and what type to avoid.
Now, this is kind of where the science is at these days. It’s very important research, and not easy to conduct. But it’s worth keeping in mind, if you are following it, that it will be a long and winding road before the studies sort through all the complexities and possible contradictions and yield empirically validated guidelines.