Olive oil plays a key role
in foetal development during pregnancy and a shortage may have pernicious
effects on the baby's subsequent development.
It has been demonstrated
that the post-natal development of babies of mothers who consumed olive oil when
pregnant is better in terms of height, weight, behaviour and psychomotor
The foetus needs vitamin E to grow. The newborn baby also needs
a store of vitamin E to fight against the oxidative stress caused on entering an
oxygen atmosphere. Although not very abundant in olive oil, it is present in
sufficient quantity thanks to the resistance of olive oil to oxidation.
So, both the amount and the type of food consumed in the diet during
pregnancy play a key part in the metabolic adaptations that occur in the mother
and in her functional relationship with the foetus.
Olive oil and breast
During labour, the vitamin E
in the mother's blood is concentrated in the breast glands and so, during breast
feeding, the mother continues to supply vitamin E. It is essential to maintain
the levels of this vitamin during breast feeding.
Vitamin E is also
recommended for premature and new-born infants with kidney or pancreas failure
because of the favourable effect it has on the hepato-biliary system.
olive oil not only provides enough essential fatty acids for the development of
the new-born child; its ratio of linoleic acid to linolenic acid (essential
fatty acids) is similar to that of breast milk.
The beneficial effect of
oleic acid lasts beyond pregnancy. Besides its documented effectiveness in
preventing hypercholesterolaemia and atherosclerosis, which is a process that
can begin in childhood, oleic acid also appears to exert a positive influence on
growth and bone mineralisation and development during infancy.
During pregnancy and breast
feeding it is advisable to consume more fat, primarily monounsaturated fat,
while reducing saturated fat and cholesterol as far as possible. General dietary
guidelines should be followed and calorie intake should be controlled to avoid
excessive weight gain.
Under-three-year-olds have different dietary
requirements to children over this age. Forty per cent of the energy they
consume comes from fat, whether it be in breast milk or any other kind of milk.
It is recommended to maintain this dietary pattern and to ensure that energy and
nutritional intake cover the developmental requirements of the child.