Why Fresh Fish Oil in Pregnancy Could Help Your Baby’s Lifelong Health
Exciting new findings show fresh fish oil could have heaps of benefits for your baby
6 min read
If you are trying for a baby, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should have up to two portions of oily fish a week. A portion is around 140g.
Baby’s on the way. You’ve probably already started narrowing down names, picking out adorable yet questionably practical clothes, and dreaming about what little one could be when they grow up – and top of your list is healthy.
Now we’re trialling a safe and simple way that could help the future health and wellbeing of your child, while they’re still growing inside you: taking fresh fish oil during pregnancy.
The benefits of fresh fish oil during pregnancy
Our researchers at the Liggins Institute think that fresh fish oil taken during pregnancy could help prevent your baby from becoming overweight and developing weight-related health issues, like diabetes, as they grow up. It could provide lifelong benefits for your baby, like reducing their body fat and improving their metabolism.
We’re running a clinical trial to find out if this pioneering idea really works.
Dr Ben Albert, our study lead, has run many studies with Professor Wayne Cutfield into the health benefits of fish oil supplements. Just last year, his team here at the Institute found that fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their babies from developing a major diabetes risk factor.
Why fresh fish oil is good for your developing baby
Fresh fish oil contains plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for our health. Fresh fish is also packed full of vitamins and minerals.
What we think may be most important in preventing weight-related health issues in your baby is how Omega 3 fatty acids improve the way insulin works in our bodies. Insulin is the hormone that helps keep our blood sugar level from getting too high or too low. Well-functioning insulin helps protect against diabetes and other weight-related diseases. When insulin is working well, it creates a healthier environment for your baby to develop in.
How to boost your fresh fish oil intake
Getting more Omega 3 fats into your diet is easy – try oily fish, like fresh salmon or mackerel. Canned fish, like sardines, are also great sources of Omega 3 and are a more affordable option.
Pregnant women (as well as women trying to conceive or currently breastfeeding) should aim to eat two portions of oily fish per week. A serving is about 150 grams. Why not try a poached salmon fillet with iron-rich spinach and baked kumara?
Make sure fish is well cooked, served hot and avoid larger species of fish such as marlin or wild-caught salmon (due to their higher levels of mercury).
More information on how to eat well and safely during pregnancy, including different types of fish, can be found in this great fact sheet.
Fresh fish oil is best during pregnancy
We believe that the best way to get the benefits of fish oil is to eat fresh fish. With fish oil supplements, you can’t always know how fresh they are – their freshness is nothing to do with their price, use by date, or country of origin. Omega 3 fatty acids are known to be chemically unstable and can break down when exposed to natural conditions such as light, heat and oxygen.
That’s why we say it’s best to stick to fresh fish. Not only is it more delicious, it also comes with plenty of other health benefits for both you and baby – it’s low in saturated fat and high in protein and crucial nutrients for your developing baby.
Vegetarian or vegan? You can get some of the Omega 3 benefits too
The omega 3 fatty acid found in plants are different from the ones in fish. They are still good for you, but they may not have the same benefits for your baby as we hope the Omega 3’s from fish will.
If you don’t eat fish, why not try adding a handful of ground flaxseed or walnuts to your breakfast oats, or a drizzle of flaxseed oil to your salad? These are good sources of Omega 3’s.