Aim: To report fish and potential mercury intakes in women of child-bearing age and the impact on nutrient intakes. Methods: Women (n = 7486) aged 25-30 years who participated in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health were categorised according to pregnancy status. Daily fish and nutrient intakes were compared with national recommendations and Nutrient Reference Values. Estimated exposure to fish contaminants was modelled from the National Residue Survey and compared with Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intakes. Results: Mean fish intake for pregnant women was 28.2g/day, and for women who had given birth within the last 12 months, 27.8g/day. Both were significantly lower than 'other' women, consuming 33.0g/day (P = 0.01 and P < 0.001, respectively), and well below the latest suggested intakes by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. Pregnant women and women who had recently given birth also had significantly lower consumption of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids than 'other' women (P < 0.01 for both) and no groups met suggested dietary targets. Fish can provide up to 915% of a pregnant woman's Adequate Intake for long-chain omega-3s. Contamination of Australian fish is low, with estimated maximum weekly exposure to mercury below the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake. Conclusions: Limiting fish intake during pregnancy to minimise exposure to mercury may compromise nutritional adequacy and increase the risk of inadequate intakes of nutrients essential for maternal health and fetal growth and development. Public health recommendations need to balance the risks and benefits of fish consumption within specific countries.
Nutrition and Dietetics Vol. 71, Issue 4, p. 229-235