A key nutrient found in fresh fish and meat could help babies reach a healthy size in utero and improve their chances of survival, a study has found.
A Melbourne research team from the Ritchie Centre has discovered links between a mother’s creatine levels during pregnancy and her baby’s size at birth, in a paper published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
They will now conduct a world-first study measuring the nutrient’s levels in the maternal and umbilical blood and placenta in 900 women.
Melbourne dietician Melanie McGrice tells Babyology fish has long been known to provide amazing nutritional benefits to expectant mums, but many pregnant women are reluctant to include it in their diets.
“I find that most women are very hesitant to eat fish during pregnancy because they are concerned about listeria and mercury toxicity,” Melanie says.
“Yet the benefits of fish consumption during pregnancy far outweigh the risks, especially if you are wise with your choices.”
The scientists behind this latest study hope to work out the ideal levels of creatine expectant mums should be aiming for.
They also hope to determined exactly what the link is between low creatine levels and small babies.
“If it’s cause, then we can look at putting more creatine into the diet of these women who have had previous stillborn or low-weight babies, and we may be able to turn it around,” Dr Dickinson told the Herald Sun.
“But if it’s consequence, then it could be a marker to detect those babies that are not growing properly, and allow us to intervene.”
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid and, while there are already popular bodybuilding supplements containing it on the market, experts warn against taking these if you are pregnant or breastfeeding because just not enough information is known.
“We just don’t know enough yet. It’s vital for both mothers and babies that we get this right, it’s not something that can be rushed”, Dr Dickinson says.
The findings of this study could completely change the dietary advice given to pregnant women just as discoveries around the importance of folate did.
But, until the results are in, Melanie shares some tips with Babyology to help expectant mum’s increase the amount of fish in their diet.
- “Eat fish instead of shark: flake is shark, not fish and is much higher in mercury than fish, so if having ‘fish and chips’ order fish instead of flake.”
- “Eat salmon at least once per week. Salmon is relatively low in mercury and one of the richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids which are beneficial for you and your baby.”
- “Ensure that any fish you eat is well cooked: avoid sashimi and cook a fillet of fish instead. Fish is quick and easy to prepare so makes a nutritious and quick meal when you are tired.”
- “If you’re not comfortable cooking fish fillets, try adding tinned fish to pasta, risottos or casseroles.”