Pregnant Tori Spelling craves Sushi! Is it dangerous if she eats raw fish?

Tori Spelling’s pregnancy is proving to be quite difficult the third time around. Not only does she already have two kids to take care of, she’s also dealing with cravings she can’t satisfy–for sushi.

“I can’t wait to have sushi again,” she said during Fashion’s Night Out at Westfield Topanga in L.A. Thursday. “You can’t really have sushi when you’re pregnant.”

Instead, the 38-year-old actress and reality star says she is sticking to eating “a lot of fruit,” namely avocados. She’s lucky, too, because her husband of five years, Dean McDermott, is currently enrolled in culinary school and cooks for her every night. She recently bragged to the media, “Right now he’s in his pastry course, so he’s making fresh croissants,” she told Us. “I reap the benefits of his hard work!”

Is it dangerous for pregnant women to eat sushi?  Or is this just a big fish tale?

That depends on who you ask. In the past, many doctors and nutrition experts warned about the dangers of consuming sushi, and as a result, many pregnant women avoided it. New research, however, suggests that there may have been some hasty conclusions drawn about sushi.

The Bad

Raw sushi may contain bacteria and parasitic worms that can make anyone sick (see our previous story on Robert Downey Jr.). A pregnant woman’s immune system is weaker. This is a good thing that is designed so her body won’t attack the gowing fetus. It’s a bad thing because it means she is more susceptible to getting sick from food.

What are the chances? 

The chances of getting a parasitic infection from eating sushi are very slim, but the infection itself is not the problem. In fact, the parasite would probably not get through the placental barrier. The cause for concern comes from the liver or gastrointestinal problems that might affect the fetus. In addition, some parasitic infections can lead to anemia or serious malnourishment which can complicate a pregnancy–or cause a miscarriage.

According to the Institute of Medicine, the main risk of parasitic infection is not from eating the fish raw, but from contamination by bacteria from storing the food at improper temperatures. This is true of any food. If it’s not refrigerated, or consumed past it’s expiration date, you can become sick.

There is also the risk of poisoning from eating fish contaminated with a marine histamine toxin which can cause flushing, dizziness, and burning of the mouth and throat. Culprits can include Bluefish, Mackerel, Mahi-mahi, and tuna.

The Good

Now for the good news. Fish is healthy. It’s low in fat, high in Omega 3 and an excellent source of protein. It can even have a positive effect on a baby’s brain development. There is also no real scientific evidence that eating sushi made from fish with low mercury concentrations is dangerous.

According to College of Family Physicians of Canada, “…it is no longer necessary for pregnant women to avoid foods like…sushi and sashimi.” In Japan, women agree and actually find it somewhat ignorant to reject consuming the food. Many Japanese pregnancy books even encourage eating sushi as part of a healthy, low-fat diet!

Despite this, many women choose not to risk it. The consequences from contracting a food-borne illness are severe enough that they’d rather stick to “safe” foods. If pregnant women do choose to eat sushi, they should make sure it’s been prepared well. This can, of course, be hard to do because even if the chef is especially skilled, not every single parasite can be detected. When in doubt, eat the fully cooked or vegetarian varieties.

So, is Tori being a little too cautious?  Will you continue eating sushi? What kinds of cravings did you or someone you love have during pregnancy?

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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