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

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

Taking a stand on staying mobile after 80

August 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you want to stay as fit as possible well into your 80s, the answer may be as simple as standing on your own two feet.

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.