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Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Apr;73(4):797-806.

Essential fatty acid composition of plasma phospholipids and birth weight: a study in term neonates.

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  • 1Department of Human Biology and the Nutrition and Toxicology Research Institute Maastricht, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands.



Essential fatty acids (EFAs) in umbilical cord blood samples are associated with attained birth weight in premature infants and low-birth-weight neonates.


The objective was to investigate relations between the EFA composition of cord and maternal plasma phospholipids and birth weight in term neonates.


This was a cross-sectional study in 627 singletons born at term. The plasma phospholipid EFA composition of the mothers was determined by gas-liquid chromatography at study entry (< or = 16 wk gestation), at delivery, and in cord plasma at birth. Birth weights were normalized to SD scores.


In cord plasma, the dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid concentration was positively related to weight SD scores. Both arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were negatively related to weight SD scores. EFA-status indicators showed similar negative associations, whereas eicosatrienoic acid concentrations were positively related to neonatal size. In maternal plasma, proportions of n-3 long-chain polyenes (LCPs) and n-6 LCPs decreased during pregnancy. Larger decreases in AA, DHA, n-3 LCP, and n-6 LCP fractions were observed in mothers of heavier babies. Higher concentrations of LCPs in maternal plasma were, however, not related to a larger infant size at birth.


A lower biochemical EFA status in umbilical cord plasma and a larger decrease in maternal plasma LCP concentrations are associated with a higher weight-for-gestational-age at birth in term neonates. Our findings do not support a growth-stimulating effect of AA or DHA; however, they do suggest that maternal-to-fetal transfer of EFAs might be a limiting factor in determining neonatal EFA status.

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