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Support Your Baby’s Immune System Before Birth

Couple's Baby

Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. After all, the food you eat is your baby's main source of nutrition for growth and development.

As part of a balanced diet, a new study suggests that eating oily fish like salmon at least twice a week supports your child’s immune system.

The researchers randomly assigned 123 pregnant women to one of two groups. One group consumed their regular diet that was low in oily fish, the other group was asked to consume 2 portions of salmon per week, providing a weekly dose of 3.45 grams of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

They measured immune status from umbilical cord blood samples taken at 20 weeks until delivery and clinical evaluation of 86 infants at 6 months of age.

When the blood samples were exposed to an immune stimulant, results showed that certain immune factors (interleukins) were lower (better) in the salmon group than the regular diet group.

The findings are consistent with other similar studies which also found improved immune response from oily fish consumption. The consensus is that EPA, not DHA is more directly responsible for these benefits. The researchers noted that other nutrients in fish including selenium and vitamin D may also contribute to the immune supporting effects of fish.

More Benefits From Fish

In addition to immune health, mom’s who eat oily fish during pregnancy are helping their baby in other ways. The omega 3 fatty acid DHA found in oily fish is essential for the development of brain and eye tissue. At least 300 mg of DHA weekly is considered the minimum amount of DHA to support brain and eye development.

Fish and Mercury Concerns

EPA and DHA are found in cold water fatty fish including salmon, tuna, shellfish and herring.

Because mercury can accumulate in higher quantities in the flesh of larger fish, women who are pregnant (or planning to become pregnant) should avoid king mackerel, shark, swordfish, and tilefish. They should also limit consumption of white albacore tuna to under 6 oz. per week.

High-quality fish oil supplements made by manufacturers who test for mercury and other toxins do not pose the same risk of mercury contamination.



University of Maryland Medical Center

Mayo Clinic


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