ISSN 1470-3947 (print) | ISSN 1479-6848 (online)

Endocrine Abstracts (2012) 30 OC2.6

Childhood body composition is associated with maternal plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids status in late pregnancy

Rebecca J Moon1, Nicholas C Harvey1, Georgia Ntani1, Justin H Davies2, Hazel M Inskip1, Keith Godfrey1, Elaine M Dennison1, Philip Calder3 & Cyrus Cooper1


1MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire, UK; 2Paediatric Endocrinology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, Hampshire, UK; 3NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre (University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust), Southampton, Hampshire, UK.


Introduction: Maternal diet during pregnancy has been linked to offspring body composition, but the specific nutrients and mechanisms involved are not well understood. Higher n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) status is associated with lower risk of adiposity in adults, whereas n-6 PUFA are adipogenic. The effect of maternal PUFA in determining offspring body composition is unknown.

Method: We evaluated the relationships between maternal plasma PUFA (n-3 and n-6) status at 34 weeks gestation and offspring body composition assessed by whole body DXA at 4 and 6 years in a UK population-based prospective mother-offspring cohort study. Linear regression was used to explore these associations, yielding standardised regression coefficients.

Results: Complete data was available in 287 mother-child pairs. Maternal n-3 and n-6 PUFA concentrations had differing associations with offspring body composition: maternal total n-3 PUFA concentration positively predicted offspring lean mass (LM; r=0.12, P=0.05), but not offspring fat mass (FM; r=0.05, P=0.42) at 4 years, whereas maternal total n-6 PUFA concentration was positively associated with offspring FM (r=0.18, P=0.002), but not LM (r=0.09, P=0.14). Similar associations were seen at 6 years. Maternal total n-3 PUFA as a percentage of the total fatty acid pool negatively correlated with percentage FM at 4 years (r=−0.18, P=0.003), but no associations were identified between percentage n-6 PUFA and proportionate body composition.

Conclusion: This observational study suggests that maternal PUFA status in late pregnancy might influence offspring body composition in childhood. These findings may help inform nutritional advice in pregnancy aimed at optimising offspring health and reducing obesity.