Fatty Acid Balance During Pregnancy Affects Offspring’s Brain

Fish, an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, have been found to have a beneficial effect on fetal brain formation within the womb.

AsianScientist (Jan. 28, 2016) – Researchers at Tohoku University’s School of Medicine have found an explanation for the correlation between eating fish during pregnancy, and the health of the baby’s brain.

Dietary lipid contains fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-3, which are essential nutrients for many animals and humans. The research group, led by Professor Noriko Osumi, found that a balanced intake of lipids is necessary for the normal brain formation in mice pups. The article was published in Stem Cells.

In an animal study, the researchers noticed that when female mice were fed an omega-6-rich/omega-3-poor diet, their offspring were born with smaller brains and showed abnormal emotional behavior in adulthood.

This is significant because people in many countries have similarly poor dietary patterns. They tend to consume more seed oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids and less fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

According to Osumi, the brain abnormality found in the offspring of mice used in the study, was caused by a premature aging of fetal neural stem cells that produce brain cells. The premature aging was promoted by an imbalance of oxides of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The offspring also showed higher anxiety levels, even though they were raised on nutritionally optimized diets from an early lactation period.

A diet that contains a good balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is known to improve the development of brain function; this is based on earlier research that evaluated the effects of maternal intake of an omega-3-poor diet on brain function in children.

The study took this premise further and focused on the effects of dietary lipids on fetal brain formation. The results reveal why an optimal balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids is important for future brain function, and reinforces earlier suggestions that more fish intake by women during pregnancy can have a beneficial effect on the child’s health.

The article can be found at: Sakayori et al. (2015) Maternal Dietary Imbalance Between Omega-6 and Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Impairs Neocortical Development Via Epoxy Metabolites.


Source: Tohoku University; Photo: Gideon/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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