- With Mayo Clinic nutritionists
Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.read biographyclose window
Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.Katherine Zeratsky and Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer K. Nelson, M.S., R.D., L.D., C.N.S.D.
Jennifer Nelson is your link to a better diet. As specialty editor of the nutrition and healthy eating guide, she plays a vital role in bringing you healthy recipes and meal planning.
"Nutrition is one way people have direct control over the quality of their lives," she says. "I hope to translate the science of nutrition into ways that people can select and prepare great-tasting foods that help maintain health and treat disease."
A St. Paul, Minn., native, she has been with Mayo Clinic since 1978, and is director of clinical dietetics and an associate professor of nutrition at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
She leads clinical nutrition efforts for a staff of more than 60 clinical dietitians and nine dietetic technicians and oversees nutrition services, staffing, strategic and financial planning, and quality improvement. Nelson was co-editor of the "Mayo Clinic Diet" and the James Beard Foundation Award-winning "The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook." She has been a contributing author to and reviewer of many other Mayo Clinic books, including "Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight for EveryBody," "The Mayo Clinic Family Health Book" and "The Mayo Clinic/Williams Sonoma Cookbook." She contributes to the strategic direction of the Food & Nutrition Center, which includes creating recipes and menus, reviewing nutrition content of various articles, and providing expert answers to nutrition questions.
Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
As a specialty editor of the nutrition and healthy eating guide, Katherine Zeratsky helps you sort through the facts and figures, the fads and the hype to learn more about nutrition and diet.
A Marinette, Wis., native, she is certified in dietetics by the state of Minnesota and the American Dietetic Association. She has been with Mayo Clinic since 1999.
She's active in nutrition-related curriculum and course development in wellness nutrition at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and nutrition related to weight management and practical applications of nutrition-related lifestyle changes.
Other areas of interest include food and nutrition for all life stages, active lifestyles and the culinary arts.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, served a dietetic internship at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and worked as a registered dietitian and health risk counselor at ThedaCare of Appleton, Wis., before joining the Mayo Clinic staff.
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April 11, 2008
Does eating fish make children smarter?
By Jennifer Nelson, M.S., R.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D.
The nutritional research linking fish, especially those rich with omega 3 fatty acids, to many potential health benefits continues to grow. The omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, is found in high concentrations in the brain, eyes, and central nervous system. One arena of this research relates to IQ, specifically that of infants and children.
In the past several years, much of the advertising of DHA as it relates to infant nutrition has been done by the infant formula companies. I recognize formula companies for their continued efforts to improve the composition of their formulas — to try to mimic the long list of benefits provided by breast milk.
Although some cognitive (IQ) research results may be promising, in total, no conclusive results indicate that indeed, an algae source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in infant formula equates to smarter children in the long term. This is especially true when the many possible compounding factors such as mother and infant health, socioeconomic factors, and the many other factors that may impact childhood development are taken into account. This in itself could make for a great discussion — please share your views.
Interestingly, within the past month, 2 studies have been released linking a pregnant woman's diet rich in fish to smarter children in the early months of life up to age 3. The studies looked specifically at a woman's diet during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy — a time of important brain development. Those women who consumed fish during this time had children that performed better on visual and cognitive tests. One study even suggests that fish intake of the mother during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy may provide better cognitive outcomes than that obtained through breast milk or formula after birth.
The researchers acknowledge the potential benefits of their findings but do not neglect to mention the risks of mercury contamination. Current recommendations are that pregnant women limit mercury intake and avoid fish high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. Mercury is a known neurotoxin.
When the recommendations of limiting fish intake were released in 2001, there was a decrease in fish consumption by many pregnant women. Both studies suggest that greater intake of fish, possibly more than the recommended 12 ounces per week (current recommended limit), may be of benefit. However, choosing fish with low mercury content seems to be the best advice.
What do you think — can food make us, more specifically children, smarter?
Would you/do you exceed the current recommendations of more than 12 ounces in a week? What is your threshold of possible risk vs. possible benefit?
To your health,