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

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

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.