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


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.


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.


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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