Eating salmon twice per week during pregnancy increases omega-3 levels in both the mother and the developing child, improving the antioxidant defenses of both, a study has suggested.
Salmon were farmed until they averaged 4 kg in weight and were then killed. They were then filleted into 150 g portions and the fillets frozen individually in vacuum sealed bags in Norway, from where they were shipped to Southampton and stored at - 30C until delivery to the women. Women then stored the fillets in their home freezer until the day of cooking.The participants To carry out this study, researchers provided two meals of salmon per week to a sample of one hundred and twenty-three pregnant women from week 20 of gestation with low habitual intake of oily fish (≤ 2/month). The recruited women were then randomly assigned to one of two groups. Women in one group consisted of 61 women and were referred to as the control group, they were asked to continue their habitual low oily fish diet. Women in the second group consisted of 62 women and were referred to as the salmon group. They were asked to incorporate 2 portions/week of "tailor- made" salmon into their diet from 20 weeks of gestation until the end of their pregnancy. ‘Fish diary’ All study participants were also asked to keep a ‘fish diary’. This was a diary in which they were asked to fill in the quantity, exact name, and cooking method of any fish consumed during their pregnancy. They were also asked to complete a questionnaire of food habits at weeks 20 and 34 of gestation –which would provide information about food intake during the previous 12 weeks. The women attended a clinic at weeks 20, 34, and 38 of pregnancy at which blood and urine samples were taken from the two groups.Subsequently, blood and urine samples were taken again at week 38 of gestation and at labor –where also cord blood samples were taken.The new moms were then followed-up at 3 months postpartum. What did they find? Omega-3 concentrations improved when pregnant women who did not frequently eat fish ate two servings of salmon weekly; the same results were obtained for the newborns. "If pregnant women, who do not regularly eat oily fish, eat 2 portions of salmon/wk, they will increase their intake of EPA and DHA, achieving the recommended minimum intake," the authors write, "and they will increase their and their fetus’ status of EPA and DHA compared with those who did not." Two servings of salmon per week help the mother and her child reach the minimum recommended omega-3 intake for healthy fetus develop(between 200 and 300 mg daily). In addition, higher selenium and retinol plasma concentrations were observed after dietary salmon supplementation, previous research has found selenium levels reduced in women who miscarried or had preeclampsia. The authors of the study do concede the small study sample as a limitation in interpreting results. Although the study began with 123 women, it ended with 86. Take home point A review article called, "The Importance of Antioxidant Micronutrients in Pregnancy" says: "Only by fully understanding the requirements for micronutrients during pregnancy will we be able to evaluate the potential use of these dietary antioxidant supplements as a way of preventing pathological pregnancy outcomes. University of Granada researchers have added to this knowledge. They write "the intake of salmon increases omega-3 fatty acid levels and improves antioxidant defenses in pregnant women and their babies."