Fish oil during pregnancy offers no protection for children against obesity

June 28, 2016

In Europe, almost one in three schoolchildren under the age of ten is overweight, if not obese. In the search for the cause of this phenomenon, fetal programming inside a mother's womb was put under scrutiny as a potential culprit for this "heavy issue". The hypothesis that the mother's diet might have some sort of influence could not be confirmed in a long-term study: administering a special diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, to pregnant women neither resulted in children being slimmer nor fatter than their counterparts from the control group whose mothers had enjoyed a normal diet.

Up to now, the general consensus had been that "bad" fats, especially omega-6 fatty acids, consumed during pregnancy increased the formation of infantile fat cells, while "good" omega-3 fatty acids protected the child against becoming overweight. Since, in the animal model, an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation coupled with a simultaneous reduction in arachidonic acids resulted in offspring with a significantly lower tendency to become overweight, the INFAT human study was the first to investigate whether this result was translatable onto humans.

"Translating the findings from animal trials onto the human organism is always a challenge", says Professor Hans Hauner, Head of the Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). "However, the prospects of this being applicable were extremely attractive: had it been confirmed, mothers would have been able to protect to ensure lifelong protection for their offspring against becoming overweight, or even obese, right from the very start."

Over 200 women took part in the long-term study

208 women with an average age of 32 years and a BMI of 22 took part in this study conducted by Prof. Hauner from the Chair of Nutritional Medicine at TUM, which was aimed at verifying this hypothesis. While half of the study group continued with a normal diet, the other 104-women-strong group ate an omega-3 rich diet coupled with a significant reduction in meat consumption (contains omega-6 fatty acids) from the twelfth week of pregnancy to the fourth month of lactation. The children of the cohort mothers were examined once a year until the age of five, making the INFAT study the first study to deliver valid data over such an extended period.

"We then examined the children using three different methods: firstly we measured their skin fold thickness, then ultrasound investigations were added as these are more accurate", explains Prof. Hauner from the Chair of Nutritional Medicine at TUM - "and in one part of the cohort we also used MRS imaging to measure the fat inside the abdominal cavity.

The end result was negative: „this special diet had no effect on the weight of the babies and toddlers", says Hauner. This proves that the earlier findings are not translatable onto humans and that the hoped-for benefit of such a diet is questionable as it does not appear to prevent childhood obesity. According to the study's authors, it might, however, be possible that a mother's diet during early pregnancy has other beneficial effects, which would have to be determined in further clinical studies.
INFAT: Impact of Nutritional Fatty Acids during Pregnancy and Lactation on Early Human Adipose Tissue Development

Publication: Brei C, Stecher L, Much D, Karla M-T, Amann-Gassner U, Shen J, Ganter C, Karampinos DC, Brunner S, Hauner H.: Reduction of the n-6:n-3 long-chain PUFA ration during pregnancy and lactation on offspring body composition: follow-up results from a randomized controlled trial up to 5 y of age. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115.128520

Contact: Prof. Dr. Hans Hauner
Technical University of Munich
Chair of Nutritional Medicine
Else-Kröner-Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine
Gregor-Mendel-Str. 2
D-85354 Freising
Tel: +49/8161/ 71 - 2000

Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Related Pregnancy Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 has a prolonged effect for many during pregnancy
Symptoms for pregnant women with COVID-19 can be prolonged, lasting two months or longer for a quarter of the women who participated in a national study led by UC San Francisco and UCLA.

Relaxed through pregnancy
A group of researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have been able to show that maternal psychological wellbeing during pregnancy has a positive effect on newborn infants.

Trajectories of antidepressant medication use during pregnancy
In an analysis of women who started pregnancy when taking antidepressant medications, investigators identified three trajectories of antidepressant dispensing during pregnancy: more than half stopped their treatment, a quarter maintained their treatment throughout pregnancy, and one-fifth discontinued it for a minimum of three months and then resumed it during the postpartum period.

Are women using e-cigarettes during preconception and/or pregnancy?
A new study of 1,365 racially/ethnically diverse, low-income pregnant women found that 4% reported e-cigarette use.

A better pregnancy test for whales
To determine whale pregnancy, researchers have relied on visual cues or hormone tests of blubber collected via darts, but the results were often inconclusive.

Cannabis use during pregnancy
The large health care system Kaiser Permanente Northern California provides universal screening for prenatal cannabis use in women during pregnancy by self-report and urine toxicology testing.

Questions and answers about cannabis use during pregnancy
A new study shows that women have many medical questions about the use of cannabis both before and during pregnancy, and during the postpartum period while breastfeeding.

The effect of taking antidepressants during pregnancy
Exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and the first weeks of life can alter sensory processing well into adulthood, according to research in mice recently published in eNeuro.

Is ivermectin safe during pregnancy?
Is it safe to give ivermectin to pregnant women? To answer this question, researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by 'la Caixa,' conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that reported cases of accidental exposure to the drug among pregnant women.

Going to sleep on your back in late pregnancy
This study looked at whether going to sleep on your back in the third trimester of pregnancy was associated with average lower birth weights.

Read More: Pregnancy News and Pregnancy Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to