Can better omega-3 intake help mums have babies with healthy weight and guts?

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock.com / Serquan
iStock.com / Serquan
Mothers who eat high levels of omega-3s from oily fish may help their children form healthy guts and maintain healthy weights throughout their lives, according to new research in mice.

The study, published in Microbiome, showed that babies fed a high-fat diet gained less weight if they were born to mothers who had a high omega-3 status.

Mice also gained less weight if they breastfed from a mother with more omega-3 fats, said the team – led by Dr Ruairi Robertson.

“We have shown that a mother’s diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding may affect her babies’ weight and gut health in the long term,”​ Robertson commented.

“We know that your gut bacteria are extremely important for your overall health, particularly to maintain a healthy weight and gut,”​ he added. “These results suggest that, if a mother eats more healthy fats and less unhealthy fats during pregnancy and breastfeeding, she may be able to help the right types of microbes grow in her babies’ intestines and form a healthy gut for later life.”

Study details

The research team, led by scientists at the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre APC Microbiome Ireland at Teagasc and University College Cork – together with collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University – found that the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in the mother’s body was also found to affect the health of her babies’ guts.

If a mother had more omega-6 fats in her body during pregnancy or breastfeeding, her babies’ guts were more ‘leaky’, which led to inflammation in their blood. These babies also had more unhealthy bacteria in their intestines, which may have contributed to their weight gain, said the team.

However, if these babies were breastfed by a mother with a healthier ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, their guts were healthier and had more healthy bacteria.

Interestingly, this effect of mother’s fat on her babies gut health continued throughout their life until they were adults, said Robertson and colleagues.

The team concluded that its data provides ‘novel evidence’ that weight gain and metabolic dysfunction in adulthood can be influenced by maternal fatty acid status through long-lasting restructuring of the gut microbiota.

“These results have important implications for understanding the interaction between modern Western diets, metabolic health, and the intestinal microbiome,”​ they said.

Source: BMC Microbiome
Published online, Open Access, doi:  10.1186/s40168-018-0476-6
“Maternal omega-3 fatty acids regulate offspring obesity through persistent modulation of gut microbiota”
Authors: Ruairi C. Robertson, et al

Want to continue the childhood nutrition discussion?​ Join us at the FOOD FOR KIDS Summit Nov. 12-14 in Chicago. Checkout a list of speakers HERE​ and register HERE​.

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