Eating salmon while pregnant affects contents of mother's milk

August 3, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Mothers who eat more salmon before giving birth boost levels of a vital nutrient in their breast milk, but could lower levels of disease-fighting antibodies they pass on while feeding their baby, researchers have found.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon, are crucial during early childhood development when they are needed for optimal growth and development. As well as being important for the growth of a baby's brain and eyes, they may also help the development of healthy blood vessels, heart, and immune system. As a result, pregnant women are encouraged to eat several servings a week of certain kinds of oily fish known to provide high levels of omega-3.

However, very little is known about the influence of eating oily fish during pregnancy on the omega-3 fatty acid content of the mother's milk, and on immune substances, such as the antibodies passed from mother to baby during breastfeeding. The protection against infection that this provides to vulnerable is one of the reasons why breastfeeding is strongly recommended by health professionals in the first months after birth.

A European consortium of researchers, led by the University of Reading and the University of Southampton in the UK, collaboratively conducted a dietary intervention study in which pregnant women were randomly assigned to eat their normal diet, or one high in salmon.

Researchers found that those mothers that had eaten salmon during the latter stages of their pregnancy increased the proportion of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in milk throughout the first month after birth, but also lowered levels of secretory immunoglobulin-A (sIgA) - an important antibody that helps protect the newborn against infection.

Findings from the study are published in the August 2012 issue of The .

Lead researcher Parveen Yaqoob, Professor of Nutritional Physiology at the University of Reading, said: "Pregnant women in the UK are currently advised to eat one or two servings of oily fish a week, while limiting tuna and avoiding shark, swordfish and king mackerel. This is intended to balance the need for sufficient levels of omega-3-rich food while limiting foods that might contain high levels of mercury.

"While our study showed that with diets high in oily fish passed on useful nutrients to their babies while breastfeeding, more research is needed to examine how the resulting lower levels of in breast milk could biologically affect young infants.

"From this study, it is positive to note that by following the current guidance on consumption during pregnancy, women can boost beneficial nutrients to help the early growth of their babies at a crucial stage of development. contains a number of ingredients which contribute to immunity, and from this work we cannot say if the reduction in one type of antibody would have any effect on a baby's health."

Explore further: Two servings of salmon a week is healthy for pregnant women and their babies: study

More information: Urwin HJ, Miles EA, Noakes PS, Kremmyda L-S, Vlachava M, Diaper ND, Pérez-Cano J, Godfrey KM, Calder PC, Yaqoob P. ‘Salmon consumption during pregnancy alters fatty acid composition and Secretory IgA concentration in human breast milk', Journal of Nutrition 142:1603-1610, 2012. jn.nutrition.org/content/142/8/1603.full

Related Stories

Two servings of salmon a week is healthy for pregnant women and their babies: study

March 20, 2012
University of Granada researchers have proven that eating two servings of salmon reared at a fish farm (enriched with omega-3 fatty acids and only slightly contaminated) a week during pregnancy is beneficial both for the ...

Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women

June 8, 2012
– Working with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara have found high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in the breast milk of economically ...

Eat fish, build up brainpower

January 10, 2012
Can pregnant women help boost their children's brainpower by eating fish? The findings of a study, presented in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show how children born to women who consumed more fish during their ...

Recommended for you

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.