New Zealand researchers have found that pregnant mice who took fresh fish oil protected their offspring from developing diabetes later on in life. Pups born to mothers whose diets included omega-3 fatty acids were observed to have higher levels of insulin resistance — a good indication, the team said, of a reduced diabetes risk. Still, the Auckland team noted that these findings need to be confirmed among human mothers. Pregnant women should still source their fish oil from fatty fish, they recommend.
The results of the study, which were published in Scientific Reports, investigated the potential omega-3 found in fish oil supplements had on diabetes risk and other obesity-related diseases. The team was particularly interested in the hypothesized effects the fatty acids had on babies. For the purpose of the study, researchers fed pregnant rats either a high-fat diet to make them overweight, or a standard diet. Fresh fish oil was given to half of the rats in each group. The team saw that pinkies born to mothers on the fish oil treatment had improved insulin mechanisms, which can prevent the development of diabetes as they age.
These findings have major implications should it prove to be similar among humans. Previous research has shown that children born to overweight or obese mothers have a significantly increased risk of metabolic diseases such as diabetes. These findings suggest that fish oil can reduce these risks even if the mother is carrying excess weight.
The team will hold a clinical trial later this year to test the possible benefit these supplements may have on human women.
With the results of this study to be published only early next year, medical professionals still encourage pregnant women to get their recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish. This abundance in caution is due, in part, to the fact that certain fish oil supplements have been recorded to be of dubious quality. (Related: Food Investigations: Fish oil vitamins exposed as containing questionable chemicals.)
Omega-3 is noted to be highly volatile, changing in efficacy when exposed to light or heat. The fatty acids rapidly break down during oxidation. This degradation can prove to be harmful, or more likely, ineffective, for pregnant women who want to improve their health.
What pregnant women should eat
Pregnancy requires a different diet, or rather, a more enhanced form of a standard, healthy one. Since women are now technically eating for two, it is important that the food they eat is nutritious and healthful. A pregnant woman’s diet should be varied, containing a mixture of the following items.
- Legumes – This includes food like lentils, peas, soybeans, and beans. Many pregnant women do not consume enough vitamin B9 (folate), which is crucial for gestation. It has been studied that babies born to mothers who are folate-deficient are more likely to have neurological abnormalities. Women who are pregnant are highly recommended to increase their intake of vitamin B9. Legumes are a perfectly acceptable way to do so, as a standard cup of lentils, chickpeas, or black beans may provide around 65 to 90 percent of the recommended daily intake.
- Dark, leafy greens – Broccoli and other such vegetables, including kale and spinach offer various vitamins and nutrients necessary for proper fetal growth. Not only do these veggies help the fetus, they also help moms who suffer from constipation. Green, leafy vegetables have also been associated with a reduced risk of low birth weight.
- Berries – These are great snacks and are rich sources of various antioxidants and nutrients that improve the immune system. Pregnant women are sometimes observed to be more susceptible to disease, but this can be easily prevented with an increased intake of berries. Those darker in color are known to have higher concentrations of essential antioxidants.
While we wait for medical science to confirm the benefits fish oil supplements could have on pregnant women and their babies, it remains a safe and smart choice to follow a diet that is mostly plant-based and free of processed sugars and fats.
Learn more about foods with omega 3s at Naturalpedia.com.