A baby having milk from a bottle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Not all breast milk is created equally. It has been shown that there are wide variations in the amounts of fat, glucose, vitamins, and minerals in breast milk, not only from person to person but even within the same person on the same day. Some of the nutritional characteristics of breast milk are influenced by the mom’s state of nutrition, medications, hydration, and vitamin supplements.
The present study evaluated the immune properties of breast milk in response to certain dietary interventions. Breast milk contains fatty acids with “immunomodulatory properties”, which means that they can either strengthen or weaken the baby’s immune system. Sometimes weakening the immune system can be a good thing within certain limits, such as when a person is having an allergic reaction or some kind of autoimmune disease like lupus. Breast milk is once again almost the perfect food.
Pregnant women were divided up into three study groups: dietary intervention with probiotics (diet/probiotic) or with placebo (diet/placebo) and a control group (control/placebo). Dietary intervention included dietary counseling and provision of rapeseed (canola) oil-based food products. The probiotics used were Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in combination. Dietary intake was evaluated by food records at intervals during the pregnancy and 1 month postpartum. Breast milk samples were collected after birth (colostrum) and 1 month after delivery. A total of 125 women participated.
Dietary intervention (adding the canola-based foods) improved the quality of fat in the diet. In breast milk, the proportion of several fatty acids and other peptides useful in controlling immunity increased (including α-linolenic acid, n-3 fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid, TNF-α, IL-10, IL-4, IL-2 and long-chain n-3 fatty acids). This shows that the immune properties of breast milk can be improved by dietary interventions such as increasing the amount of canola oil taken in by the pregnant and lactating woman.
Because of its light flavor and smooth texture, canola oil is one of the most versatile cooking oils. You can use it in a number of dishes and cooking methods. Here are a few ideas for cooking with canola oil:
- Use as a cooking oil for sauteing, stir-frying, grilling, and baking.
- Add it to salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.
- Use it to coat your pans for nonstick baking.
- Replace it for solid fats (such as margarine and butter) in recipes.
Reference: Hoppu U, et al, “Probiotics and dietary counselling targeting maternal dietary fat intake modifies breast milk fatty acids and cytokines”, European Journal of Nutrition, Volume 51, Number 2 (2012), 211-219.