SOUTHAMPTON, England, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Mothers-to-be, who eat fatty fish boost levels of a vital nutrient in their breast milk, but could lower disease-fighting antibodies, U.S. researchers say.
Study leader Philip Calder of the University of Southampton and colleagues at the University of Reading said long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are crucial during early childhood when they are needed for optimal growth and development -- especially baby's brain and eyes.
Pregnant women are encouraged to eat one or two servings a week of certain kinds of oily fish such as salmon or sardines known to provide high levels of omega-3, Calder said.
The researchers conducted a dietary intervention study in which pregnant women were randomly assigned to eat their normal diet, or one high in salmon.
The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, found mothers had eaten salmon during the latter stages of their pregnancy increased the amount of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in milk throughout the first month after birth, but also lowered levels of secretory immunoglobulin-A an important antibody that helps protect the newborn against infection.
"The study showed for the first time pregnant women who ate more oily fish pass on useful nutrients to their babies while breastfeeding," Calder said in a statement. "However, we need to conduct much more research to examine how the lower levels of antibodies in breast milk could affect the babies."
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