FAB RESEARCH COMMENT:
Sex differences in the prevalence of many neurodevelopmental disorders are well known, with ADHD, Autism and Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders all significantly more common in males than females.
Previous research has confirmed a biological basis for some of these sex differences, in that males appear more vulnerable than females to disturbances of normal brain development in response to many environmental stressors in early life, including both maternal stress and malnutrition during pregnancy.
Animal studies have repeatedly shown that modern, western-type diets, rich in omega-6 fats, and seriously lacking in the long-chain omega-3 (EPA and DHA), have negative effects on brain development - i.e. that the diets eaten by most humans effectively create a state of malnutrition, compared with the standard feed of laboratory animals.
Here, researchers investigated whether supplementation during pregnancy with omega-3 DHA might protect against the negative effects of both an omega-6 rich diet and maternal stress on brain development, with a specific focus on possible sex differences.
Results confirmed that male offspring were more vulnerable than females to prenatal stress, in terms of reduced placental and embryo weight.
They also showed that maternal DHA supplementation protected against this stunting of growth in the unborn males, and also mitigated the associated changes in the expression of genes known to be important in regulating bbrain and body development.
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