Scientists discover impact of fruit and vegetable intake on nutritional value of breast milk

A significant correlation between the dietary habits in fruit and vegetable consumption of lactating women and the polyphenol content in their breast milk

The breastfeeding rate in Hong Kong has been increasing steadily over the past 20 years. As the source of a variety of nutrients, breast milk plays a vital role in the healthy growth and development of infants. The Research Institute for Future Food (RiFood) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has conducted a study to analyse the three-day dietary records and breast milk samples of Hong Kong lactating women.

The research has revealed that the fruit and vegetable intake of lactating women was below the recommended level, and there was a significant correlation between dietary intake and the nutrient levels of breast milk, especially the carotenoid and polyphenol contents.

As explained by the research team, the first 1,000 days from pregnancy to a two-year-old infant is the basis for establishing long-term health. Breast milk contains a variety of nutrients and plays an important role in their healthy growth.

The study found that only 4% of lactating women had dietary habits that met the recommendation from the Department of Health to consume at least two servings of fruits and three servings of vegetables per day, or the recommended intake of vitamin A according to the “Chinese Dietary Reference Intake” which was established by the Chinese Nutrition Society. The level of carotenoids in breast milk was higher in lactating women who had a higher intake of fruits and vegetables.

Dr Kenneth LO, Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology of PolyU, suggested lactating women should enhance the levels of carotenoids and polyphenols in breast milk through increasing their fruit and vegetable intake. Common dark green vegetables, including Chinese flowering cabbage, spinach, Chinese kale, Indian lettuce, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, papayas, mangoes etc., are rich in phytonutrients.

Image credit- PolyU

Read Previous

What makes India one of the most micronutrient deficient countries in the world?

Read Next

France helps address child malnutrition in Congo

Leave a Reply