Researchers at Southampton University have linked the polyunsaturated fat intake of pregnant women to fetal weight. According to the study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, women who consume more polyunsaturated fats given birth to heavier infants.
A total of 293 children between 4 and 6 years old were included in the study along with the mothers who gave birth to the children. Fat and muscle mass was assessed for all children. Measurements were compared to the polyunsaturated fat levels found in the blood samples of mothers taken during pregnancy. Higher levels of n-6 polyunsaturated fats resulted in higher fat mass and lower muscle mass in children. Alternatively, higher n-3 polyunsaturated fat levels results in lower fat mass and higher muscle mass in children. N-3 polyunsaturated fats are often referred to as omega 3s. Omega 3s are heart-healthy oils found in fish, nuts and seeds.
Whether a supplementation program to increase n-3 polyunsaturated fat intake or dietary education on how to reduce n-6 intake and increase n-3 intake is the best solution to the obesity problem is not yet known. Previous studies based solely on increased n-3 intake have shown a combination effort works best. Combination efforts would include supplementing the pregnancy diet with n-3 polyunsaturated fats and reducing intake of n-6 polyunsaturated fats concurrently.
This study was just part of a larger effort to find connections between maternal lifestyle and diet on physical childhood development. Childhood obesity is a growing problem and researchers are just starting to uncover possible causes linking maternal dietary intake to child health, both physically and mentally, well into young adulthood.
R. J. Moon, N. C. Harvey, S. M. Robinson, G. Ntani, J. H. Davies, H. M. Inskip, K. M. Godfrey, E. M. Dennison, P. C. Calder, C. Cooper. Maternal Plasma Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Status in Late Pregnancy Is Associated with Offspring Body Composition in Childhood. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2012; 98 (1): 299 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2012-2482