Extra Virgin Olive Oil Can Give Your Breast Milk a Boost, Study Says

The main source of fat in the Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil can help pregnant women and their babies stay healthy in more ways than one.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Updated July 14, 2022
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Image: Francesco83/Shutterstock

Pass the olive oil, please! Research by the University of Barcelona shows that consuming extra virgin olive oil during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can increase antioxidants in breast milk, passing more immune-boosting benefits to baby.

The study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, observed the effects of adding extra virgin olive oil to the diets of pregnant mice. One group of rats was supplemented with extra virgin olive oil, one with refined olive oil and one with just water once a day for six weeks.

At the experiment’s conclusion, researchers found that the group who had consumed extra virgin olive oil had higher levels of phenolic compounds or antioxidants in their breast milk. But these antioxidants weren’t just trapped in the breast milk. They could also be passed onto baby, where they surprisingly were detected at higher concentrations in baby than in mom.

It has long been recognized that environmental factors such as a mother’s diet can impact her breast milk composition and, by extension, the health of her baby. Studies have also shown that vitamin D supplements can pass through breast milk, decreasing baby’s risk of eczema, while caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can also pass through, adversely impacting baby.

Researchers maintain that although this study was conducted on mice, it provides a great stepping stone for even more research. “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”, the authors said in their report.

The benefits of extra virgin olive oil don’t just stop with immune-boosting breast milk. The Mediterranean diet (high in extra virgin olive oil) has been shown to lower pregnant women’s risk of gestational diabetes and even boost IVF success.

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