Food and Behaviour Research

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Maternal plasma n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy and features of fetal health: Fetal growth velocity, birth weight and duration of pregnancy

Grootendorst-van Mil NH, Tiemeier H, Steenweg-De Graaff J, Koletzko B, Demmelmair H, Jaddoe VWV, Steegers EAP, Steegers-Theunissen RPM (2017) Clinical Nutrition June 2017 

Web URL: Read the abstract on Science Direct here


Background & aims

Maternal fatty acids are essential for fetal growth and development. Here, we examine associations between maternal mid-pregnancy plasma n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and fetal health determined by fetal growth velocity, birth weight and duration of pregnancy.


Participants were 6974 pregnant women and their infants from a population-based birth cohort, the Generation R Study. Maternal plasma n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio and n-3 and n-6 PUFA percentage in glycerophospholipids in mid-pregnancy were related to fetal growth velocity calculated from repeatedly measured weight, length and head circumference, birth weight, and duration of pregnancy.


A higher maternal mid-pregnancy n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio was associated with a higher growth velocity of the fetal weight (β = 0.082 SD-score/week, 95% CI 0.055; 0.108, P < 0.001), length (β = 0.085 SD-score/week, 95% CI 0.052; 0.119, P < 0.001); and head (β = 0.055 SD-score/week, 95% CI 0.019; 0.091, P = 0.003).

We also observed positive associations between n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio and birth weight (β = 0.76 SD-score, 95% CI 0.22; 1.29, P = 0.006), and duration of pregnancy (β = 1.32 weeks, 95% CI 0.24; 2.40, P = 0.02).


These results are consistent with the hypothesis that a higher n-3:n-6 PUFA ratio is important for fetal health.