The consumption of extra virgin olive oil during pregnancy increases the level of antioxidants in breast milk and in the infant

The consumption of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) increases the level of phenolic compounds in breast milk and its effect can cross the placental barrier to reach the offspring. This has been confirmed by a study carried out by the research groups “Autoimmunity, Immunonutrition and Tolerance” and “Polyphenol Research” of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the University of Barcelona, belonging to the Institute for Research in Nutrition and Food Safety (INSA-UB). Both research groups are also integrated in the Food Innovation Network of Catalonia (XIA). The results of the article, carried out in rats as a study model, have been published in the journal Food Chemistry and has been led by the experts Maria J. Rodríguez-Lagunas and Anna Vallverdú-Queralt and is part of a program to promote internal research (FRI) among young researchers at INSA-UB.

  • Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants, as it contains essential nutrients and bioactive factors (hormones, antibodies, microorganisms, stem cells, etc.). In addition, it provides many short- and long-term benefits for both mother and infant and, in the case of the newborn, reduces the incidence of infections and the risk of suffering from metabolic diseases in the future.
  • EVOO is the main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, but until now it was not known that the phenolic compounds in this product could become a component of breast milk and be available to infants.

The results of the research showed that phenolic compounds from the diet – specifically, those from EVOO – reach the systemic circulation of mothers. In addition, numerous phenolic compounds and their metabolites were also detected in breast milk. Finally, one of the most relevant findings of this study was that some of the phenolic compounds or their metabolites were detected in higher concentrations in the offspring’s plasma than in the mothers’ plasma.

The findings add to the evidence that EVOO-enriched diets can modify or even increase the content of these bioactive compounds in breast milk with possible health benefits for the infant.

Reference article: López-Yerena, A.; Grases-Pintó, B.; Zhan-Dai, S.; Pérez- Cano, F.J.; Lamuela-Raventos, R.M.; Rodríguez-Lagunas, M.J.; Vallverdú-Queralt, A. «Nutrition during pregnancy and lactation: New evidence for the vertical transmission of extra virgin olive oil phenolic compounds in rats». Food Chemistry, mayo de 2022. Doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2022.133211