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J Physiol. 2019 May 23. doi: 10.1113/JP277583. [Epub ahead of print]

Elevated maternal linoleic acid reduces circulating leptin concentrations, cholesterol levels and male fetal survival in a rat model.

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School of Medical Science, Griffith University, Southport, QLD, Australia.
School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia.
School of Environment and Science, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD, Australia.
Food and Nutrition Research Group, Department of Wine and Food Science, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia.
Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Australian Institute for Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS), Victoria University, St Albans, VIC, Australia.



Linoleic acid consumption is increasing in Western populations. We investigated whether elevated linoleic acid in pregnancy was deleterious to mothers or offspring. Maternal and fetal body and organ weights were not affected by elevated linoleic acid consumption. Maternal lipids and leptin were altered following elevated linoleic acid consumption. Male offspring numbers were reduced following elevated linoleic acid consumption.


Dietary intakes of linoleic acid (LA) have increased dramatically in Western populations, including in women of reproductive age. Pro-inflammatory effects of LA may have detrimental effects on maternal and offspring outcomes. We aimed to investigate whether consumption of a maternal diet with elevated LA altered maternal inflammatory or metabolic markers during pregnancy, fetal growth and/or the sex ratio of the offspring. Female Wistar Kyoto rats consumed a diet high in LA (HLA) (6.21% of energy) or a diet low in LA (LLA) (1.44% of energy) for 10 weeks prior to mating and during pregnancy. Pregnant rats were killed at embryonic day 20 (E20). There were no differences in maternal or fetal body weights or organ weights in the HLA group compared to the LLA group. There was no difference in maternal circulating cytokine concentrations between dietary groups. In the maternal liver, IL-1α concentrations were significantly lower, and TNF-α and IL-7 significantly higher in the HLA group. Total plasma cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and the total:HDL cholesterol ratio were lower in dams fed the HLA diet. mRNA expression of sterol regulatory element binding transcription factor 1 (SREBF-1) and leptin in maternal adipose tissue was lower in the HLA group, as were circulating leptin concentrations. The proportion of male fetuses was lower and circulating prostaglandin E metabolite concentrations were increased in the HLA group. In conclusion, consumption of a maternal diet high in linoleic acid alters cholesterol metabolism and prostaglandin E metabolite concentrations, which may contribute to the reduced proportion of male offspring.


fetal development; inflammation; leptin; linoleic acid; lipid; sex ratio


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