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Pediatr Res. 2000 Feb;47(2):278-83.

Dietary trans fatty acids affect docosahexaenoic acid concentrations in plasma and liver but not brain of pregnant and fetal rats.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Biology, University of Murcia, Spain.


The aim of the present study was to investigate the maternal-fetal transport, incorporation, and effects on liver delta-6 fatty-acid desaturase activity of dietary trans fatty acids in pregnant rats. Three groups of six rats each were fed three experimental diets containing approximately 0%, 15%, and 30% of trans fatty acids but containing the same proportion of linoleic (18:2 n-6) and a-linolenic (18:3 n-3) acids for 10 wk. On d 20 of pregnancy, the animals from each group were killed. We determined the fatty acid profiles in plasma, brain, and liver microsomes of pregnant rats, as well as in placenta and fetal liver and brain. No changes were found in the number of fetuses of the pregnant rats. Trans fatty acids were incorporated in high concentrations in placenta and in maternal and fetal tissues, except brain, strongly elevating the linoleic acid proportion and lowering that of docosahexaenoic acid. The delta-6 fatty-acid desaturase activity in the liver microsomes of the pregnant rats was inhibited by trans isomers. In conclusion, high intakes of trans fatty acids partially inhibit liver delta-6 fatty-acid desaturase in pregnant rats, which may explain, in part, the low concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid in pregnant and fetal tissues. However, the fatty acid composition of both fetal and pregnant rat brain remains mostly unaffected regardless of the dietary trans fatty acid content.

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