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Nutr Diabetes. 2018 May 25;8(1):29. doi: 10.1038/s41387-018-0040-2.

Prenatal n-3 long-chain fatty acid status and offspring metabolic health in early and mid-childhood: results from Project Viva.

Author information

Centre for Fetal Programming, Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Primary Care and Public Health, Imperial College London, London, UK.
Danish Diabetes Academy, Odense, Denmark.
Division of Chronic Disease Research Across the Lifecourse, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA, USA.
Centre for Fetal Programming, Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.


Higher maternal and biomarker levels of n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) have been associated with improved perinatal outcomes and may also influence offspring metabolic health. Past studies were not powered to examine metabolic outcomes and few have specifically targeted metabolically vulnerable populations. We examined the associations of prenatal n-3 LCPUFA status with markers of metabolic health in early and mid-childhood in the full population as well as stratified by maternal glucose tolerance. Our data consisted of 1418 mother-child dyads from Project Viva, a longitudinal, prospective pre-birth cohort enrolled in eastern Massachusetts. We assessed maternal dietary intake of fish and n-3 LCPUFA in mid-pregnancy using a validated food frequency questionnaire. N-3 LCPUFA levels were quantified in maternal second trimester and umbilical cord plasma using liquid-gas chromatography. We assessed offspring anthropometry, adiposity, and blood pressure at early (median age: 3.2 years) and mid-childhood (median age: 7.7 years); and assayed blood samples collected at these visits for metabolic biomarkers. We report here multivariable effect estimates and 95% CI. Early childhood BMI z-score was on average 0.46 (1.03) units and waist circumference 51.3 (3.7) cm. At mid-childhood these measures were 0.39 (1.00) units and 60.0 (8.3) cm, respectively. Higher cord plasma DHA levels were associated with lower BMI z-score ((Q)uartile 4 vs. Q1: -0.21, 95% CI: -0.38, -0.03), waist circumference (Q4 vs. Q1: -0.63, 95% CI: -1.27, 0.00 cm), and leptin levels (Q4 vs. Q1: -0.36, 95% CI: -0.77, 0.05 ng/mL) in early childhood. These associations were strongest and reached significance in offspring of women with isolated hyperglycemia vs. better or worse glycemic status. Higher maternal DHA + EPA (Q4 vs. Q1: -1.59, 95% CI: -2.80, -0.38 μg/mL) and fish (≥3 vs. 0 portions/week: -2.18, 95% CI: -3.90, -0.47 μg/mL) intake was related to lower adiponectin in early childhood. None of these associations persisted with mid-childhood outcomes. We did not find associations with any of the other outcomes. This study supports early and possibly transient effects of prenatal n-3 LCPUFA status on anthropometric measures and adipokine levels. It also raises the possibility that offspring of women with isolated hyperglycemia derive the most benefits from higher n-3 LCPUFA status.

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