Dietary folate intake in lactating mothers linked with improved gut-health of infants: Study

10:22 AM Nov 03, 2023 | PTI |

In lactating mothers, consuming folates in diet was associated with improved gut-health of infants, researchers have found.


Folate is a vitamin-B essential for cell growth and reproduction and can be found in cereal products, vegetables, legumes, and fruits – in particular, fortified orange juices.

Dietary folate increased the potential of vital carbohydrates in the breastmilk of lactating mothers, known as Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), in protecting the most vulnerable premature babies against necrotising enterocolitis, according to Caren Biddulph, a dietician and PhD graduate at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

Necrotising enterocolitis is an acute inflammatory disease occurring in the intestines of premature infants and can be potentially fatal. There is growing evidence that HMOs played multiple positive roles in protecting infant health, such as reduced allergies and gastrointestinal and infectious diseases, said Biddulph, lead author of the study published in the journal Nutrients.

“If a breastfeeding mother’s diet can alter the components of milk that help structure the baby’s gut microbiome, adjusting that diet can potentially influence the baby’s lifelong metabolic health,” she said.


The study in 101 lactating mothers was established to investigate differences in breastmilk to help improve infant nutrition and general health, including the survival rate of premature babies suffering intestinal disease.

The researchers found that while dietary folate was associated with the total HMO levels, any level of alcohol consumption was associated with decreased levels of certain HMOs.

They also found no associations between HMO concentrations and maternal fat mass, fat-free mass, or associated body composition indices.

“Regarding the folate finding, there may be some merit in ensuring adequate folate status in clinically deficient mothers, or, at the very least, encouraging plant-based and fortified foods rich in folate in the usual diet when breastfeeding,” said Biddulph.


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