Women who eat “good” fats, like fish oil, during pregnancy do not prevent their children becoming overweight or obese.
Until now, it was assumed that eating “bad” fats, like omega-6 fatty acids, during pregnancy increased the development of infant fat cells.
“This special diet had no effect on the weight of the babies and toddlers”
In contrast, it was thought “good” fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, protected children from becoming overweight. Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly found in oily fish, like salmon and fresh tuna.
As previous studies in animals appeared to confirm this theory, researchers at the Technical University of Munich decided to see if this was the case in humans.
Half of the 208 pregnant women enrolled in their study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, were asked to eat an omega-3 rich diet with less meat and the remaining women continued to eat as normal.
The women continued their diets until the fourth month of breast feeding, and then their children were monitored annually until they were five years old.
“This special diet had no effect on the weight of the babies and toddlers,” said study author Professor Hans Hauner.
He said: “The prospects of this being applicable were extremely attractive: had it been confirmed, mothers would have been able to protect to ensure lifelong protection for their offspring against becoming overweight, or even obese, right from the very start.”
The study’s authors still believe it is possible that a mother’s diet during pregnancy may have other beneficial effects, but said more research is needed.