Pregnant? Did you know Maternal Omega-3 Status may Affect a Child’s Development?
Pregnancy is one of the most important developmental periods of life. During pregnancy, mothers transfer nutrients from their circulation to the baby by way of the placenta. The capacity to provide essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA)) depends upon their availability in maternal circulation and body stores. When nutritional status is assessed during pregnancy, the information can be used to determine its effect on the child’s development.
Vidakovic and colleagues measured maternal LCPUFA plasma phospholipid concentrations in the 3nd trimester (4,455 women) and associated these with blood pressure measurements taken in the offspring at 6y of age. Higher maternal n-3 LCPUFA concentrations, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), were associated with lower systolic blood pressure in children. Higher n-6:n-3 ratios were associated with significantly higher systolic blood pressure in children.
The average plasma eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and DHA concentrations (EPA+DHA) among these women was 5.3% (weight %). In a study with pregnant women living in the UK have similar plasma DHA+EPA concentrations, maternal n-3 LCPUFA concentrations were associated with increased lean body mass in children at 4 and 6 years of age. Moon and colleagues concluded that higher maternal n-6 LCPUFA status during pregnancy might increase the likelihood of childhood adiposity.
DHA synthesis from α-linolenic acid (ALA) in the body is inhibited by diets high in n-6 fatty acids. During the past century, there has been a dramatic increase in the consumption of n-6 LCPUFA, primarily as soybean oil which has likely decreased blood and tissue concentrations of EPA and DHA.
These studies, and others, suggest that low circulating n-3 fatty acid concentrations during pregnancy, exacerbated by high n-6 LCPUFA intakes, may negatively impact child development.
Vidakovic AJ, Gishti O, Steenweg-de Graaff J, Williams MA, Duijts L, Felix JF, Hofman A, Tiemeier H, Jaddoe VWV, Gaillard R. Higher maternal plasma n-3 PUFA and lower n-6 PUFA concentrations in pregnancy are associated with lower childhood systolic blood pressure. 2015 J Nutr doi: 10.3945/nj.115.210823
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