An ongoing clinical study on the link between nutrition of mothers and the composition of breast milk.


Home » International News » An ongoing clinical study on the link between nutrition of mothers and the composition of breast milk.

Feeding properly your unborn baby is an important concern for every parent to come. The BREASTFEEDING clinical study, carried out by the University Hospital Center at Rennes (France) and supported by the Britany region authority, aims to expand Scientifics knowledge in the field of perinatal feeding. It’s the result of multidisciplinary partnership between several service of the University Hospital Center of Rennes (Department of Nutrition, Clinical Investigation unit, Research and Innovation department, and Biological resources center), as well as many external partners (INRAE, The University Rennes 1, the Association Bleu-Blanc-Cœur, the companies Valorex and System U).

The idea is to measure the nutrition impact of mothers, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, on the breast milk composition, as well as on the gut microbiota of the newborn.

The precious first 1000 days of life.

1000 days: this is the time between the conception day and the 2nd birthday. 1000 days sounds like a long period, but it actually goes by very quickly, especially as it’s an important temporal window for the health of a lifetime.

Several studies have shown that many factors outside the genetical code, such our diet, can favor or inhibit the translation of our genes into proteins (these tiny workers that make our body work). This is called Epigenetic and this mechanism can positively or negatively impact our vulnerability to civilization diseases such as obesity or diabetes.

The mother nutrition during pregnancy and the breast milk composition are therefore determining factors that are worth watching closely in order to formulate the most beneficial recommendations possible for the health of future generations.

Good fats for my baby

Among the many valuable constituents of breast milk, the BREASTFEEDING study particularly focuses on lipids, which can be found on different proportions depending on the mother’s food choices.

In addition, it appears for example in France, that ANSES (French National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety) recommendary daily allowance about Omega-3 Fatty acids, are not fully followed by 98.8 % of French people. Pregnant women and breastfeeding women are not in exception.

However, balanced intakes in term of lipids are important at this period because they contribute to the optimal development of the nervous and immune systems of the baby.

During this clinical study, lipids are screens by different methods:

  • Food Survey
  • Mother’s blood test to characterize the lipids contains in her cells
  • And of course, analysis of breast milk lipids.
  • This is to observe in what proportion the lipids consumed by the mother through her diet from the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, modulate the lipid composition of breast milk during the lactation period.

80 pregnant women volunteers to recruit

The recruitment of volunteers is still ongoing and its planned to include a total of 80 women in Britany.

The idea is also to involve a maximum of health and perinatal professionals to ensure a wide communication of the results obtained and allow a diffusion of nutritional messages clear and unanimous to the future mothers.

In addition to the satisfaction of advancing research in perinatal nutrition, volunteers mothers benefit from in-kind advantages (food products, vouchers).

Study process: 3 visits to plan at the hospital

After having been referred by a professional health care professional, mothers must go, during their second trimester of pregnancy, to the clinical investigation center of the University Hospital Center at Rennes, for a first meeting in order to concretize their participation to the study.

This visit allows all mothers to get the same level of information about the study, check that they meet the different selection criteria (breastfeed intention, no food avoidance, etc.) and give them nutritional advice.

Then two more visits take place after delivery to collect a little milk and a gram of feces in the baby’s diaper to also characterize his gut flora, so-called microbiota.

The microbiota: a whole ecosystem in a small belly

Microbiota is an area where microorganism develop that interact with their environment. A mother’s body is home to several of them, including the oral, vaginal, breast and intestinal microbiota.

Microbiota are important because they help us to defend against pathogenic microorganisms and intervene for physiological functions. For example, the intestinal microbiota is involved in digestion by helping to break down food; and it also has the ability to send messages to other body organs.

Gaëlle Boudry, researcher at INRA, whose team will analyze the feces of newborns during the clinical study, explains how digestion takes place and the importance of the intestinal microbiota.

If the delivery is vaginal, the mother transmits to her baby a part of her vaginal microbiota. Then during breastfeeding, there is a transfer of bacteria from the mammary microbiota to the infant intestinal microbiota via the breast milk.

Depending what we eat, bacteria from our microbiota are different and it can have an impact on our mood and our vulnerability to develop diseases.

As part of a clinical study, we hope to learn more about the effect of lipids ingested by the mother on the quality of bacteria in the baby’s gut.

They support the project

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