Scientists at the University of Granada (UGR) and King’s College London collaborated with infant and maternity hospitals and the dairy company Lactalis Puleva for an important new study that shows the benefits of maternal DHA – an omega3 essential polyunsaturated fatty acid – in enhancing fetal iron metabolisms. The research was to show how key genes can regulate its transfer to the fetus through the placenta.
Their work was published in the Journal of Functional Foods magazine.
The research team worked with two groups from a sample of 110 healthy women who gave birth at maternity hospitals in Granada and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. These women were the subjects of a controlled, randomized, double-blind nutritional assessment that started at six months gestation.
One group of 54 women ate a balanced diet including fish and drank 2 glasses daily of a control dairy drink. The second group, made up of 56 women, also ate a similar diet with fish, but supplemented their diet with 400 milligrams per day – about 2 glasses – of a dairy product enhanced with fish oil.
After the women delivered, the researchers took a placenta sample that was processed for gene and protein analysis.
That analysis found that the group with the fish oil supplement had enhanced mother-to-fetus iron transfer, and that this transfer improved fetal iron reserves.
Researchers say they believe their study can provide a good nutritional strategy for helping babies on several fronts; in their cognitive and visual development, in preventing perinatal complications such as low birth rate, and in preventing the risk of babies suffering from anemia.
That could be a big health boost, all through a carefully controlled maternal iron supplementation during pregnancy.