Study finds consuming extra virgin olive oil during pregnancy increases level of antioxidants in rats’ breast milk

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New research has found that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) increases the level of phenolic compounds in breast milk and can cross the placental barrier, reaching the descendant.

The study, published in the journal, Food Chemistry, was conducted by a team of investigators from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona (UB), the Institute for Research on Nutrition and Food Safety (INSA-UB) at the University of Barcelona, and the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBEROBN) in Madrid, Spain.

According to researchers, the study’s findings support the understanding that diets enriched with EVOO can modify or even increase the content of these bioactive compounds in breast milk with potential benefits for the infant’s health.

As part of this preclinical study, the team assessed the levels of phenolic compounds and their derivates in biological samples in pregnant rats and their offspring after six weeks of a daily intake of EVOO. After this assessment, they found that the phenolic compounds of EVOO can be a compound in breast milk and be available in infants.

The results of the research, according to the study’s authors, showed that the phenolic compounds coming from the diet —specifically those from EVOO— reach the systemic circulation of mothers. In addition, they detected many phenolic compounds and derivates in breast milk. Of surprise to the researchers, some of the phenolic compounds and their metabolites were detected in higher concentrations in the offspring plasma than in the mothers’ plasma.

“To date, several studies had described that the composition of breast milk can be affected by biological and environmental factors to which the mother is exposed, such as the mother’s diet. Therefore, the nutritional interventions during pregnancy and the breastfeeding period can have an impact on the quality of breast milk, and consequently, on the infant’s health. Our findings shed light on the importance of the mother’s diet during pregnancy and lactation, and they provide the base for future studies on the impact of phenolic compounds on the mother’s and the infant’s health,” concluded the study’s authors.