Impact of the n-6:n-3 long-chain PUFA ratio during pregnancy and lactation on offspring neurodevelopment: 5-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:

Evidence regarding the effect of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) supplementation during pregnancy on offspring's neurodevelopment is not conclusive.

SUBJECTS/METHODS:

In this analysis, the effect of a reduced n-6:n-3 LCPUFA ratio in the diet of pregnant/lactating women (1.2 g n-3 LCPUFA together with an arachidonic acid (AA)-balanced diet between 15th wk of gestation-4 months postpartum vs control diet) on child neurodevelopment at 4 and 5 years of age was assessed. A child development inventory (CDI) questionnaire and a hand movement test measuring mirror movements (MMs) were applied and the association with cord blood LCPUFA concentrations examined.

RESULTS:

CDI questionnaire data, which categorizes children as ‘normal’, ‘borderline’ or ‘delayed’ in different areas of development, showed no significant evidence between study groups at 4 (n = 119) and 5 years (n = 130) except for the area ‘letters’ at 5 years of age (P = 0.043). Similarly, the results did not strongly support the hypothesis that the intervention has a beneficial effect on MMs (for example, at 5 years: dominant hand, fast: adjusted mean difference, - 0.08 (-0.43, 0.26); P = 0.631). Children exposed to higher cord blood concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and AA, as well as a lower ratio of n-6:n-3 fatty acids appeared to show beneficial effects on MMs, but these results were largely not statistically significant.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our results do not show clear benefits or harms of a change in the n-6:n-3 LCPUFA ratio during pregnancy on offspring's neurodevelopment at preschool age. Findings on cord blood LCPUFAs point to a potential influence on offspring development.

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