Food and Behaviour Research

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Maternal LC-PUFA status during pregnancy and child problem behavior: the Generation R Study

Steenweg-de Graaff JC, Tiemeier H, Basten MG, Rijlaarsdam J, Demmelmair H, Koletzko B, Hofman A, Jaddoe VW, Verhulst FC, Roza SJ. (2015) Pediatr Res. 77(3) 489-97. doi: 10.1038/pr.2014.204. Epub 2014 Dec 18. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here.



Omega 3 (n-3) and 6 (n-6) long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and the n-3:n-6 ratio are important for brain development. Whether maternal LC-PUFA status during pregnancy affects risk of problem behavior in later childhood is unclear.


Within a population-based cohort, we measured maternal plasma docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and arachidonic acid (AA) concentrations and n-3:n-6-ratio in mid-pregnancy. Child emotional and behavioral problems at 6 y of age were assessed by parents (child behavior checklist), teachers (teacher report form), and combined parent/teacher report.


Higher maternal DHA and n-3:n-6 ratio were associated with fewer child emotional problems using parent (odds ratio (OR)DHA = 0.82; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.70, 0.96; P = 0.02 and OR(n-3:n-6) = 0.83; 95% CI: 0.71, 0.96; P = 0.01; n = 5,307) and combined parent/teacher scores (ORDHA = 0.79; 95% CI: 0.66, 0.95; P = 0.01 and OR(n-3:n-6) = 0.77; 95% CI: 0.65, 0.92; P < 0.01; n = 2,828). Higher AA was associated with more child behavioral problems using teacher (OR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.20; P = 0.04; n = 3,365) and combined parent/teacher scores (OR = 1.12; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.22; P = 0.02; n = 2,827). Maternal EPA was not associated with child problem behavior.


Indications of associations of maternal LC-PUFA status with child emotional and behavioral problems were found. Future research is needed to identify LC-PUFA-sensitive periods of fetal brain development by including multiple assessments of prenatal LC-PUFA status.