High maternal consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of childhood obesity

April 29, 2011

Increased prenatal exposure to polyunsaturated fatty acids may positively influence later obesity development in children, suggests a new US study.

In the observational study, mid-pregnancy intakes of omega-3 fatty acids (docosahexaenoic and eicosapenta-enoic acid) and omega-6 fatty acids were measured in a total of 1,120 pregnant women, along with their maternal plasma and birth cord plasma concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (1). To assess the effect of maternal PUFA intake and status on the children’s growth as well as the deposition of adipose tissue, the children were examined for adiposity at the age of 3 years. The study results showed that enhanced omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in the maternal diet and in birth cord plasma were associated with lower childhood obesity. The prenatal omega-6 PUFA status seemed to be unrelated to development of obesity in early childhood.

The researchers commented that in this study the prenatal intake of omega-3 fatty acids was, as in other populations in North America and Western Europe, well below recommended values. A higher maternal omega-3 fatty acid intake may be associated with lower rates of obesity as well as less allergic hyper-sensitivity reactions and improved cognitive development in children. Results of ongoing trials could provide additional evidence regarding whether interventions to optimize maternal omega-3 PUFA status contribute to the prevention of obesity in childhood (2).


  1. Donahue S. M. A. et al. Prenatal fatty acid status and child adiposity at age 3 y: results from a US pregnancy cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 93:780–788.
  2. Hauner H. et al. The impact of nutritional fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation on early human adipose tissue development. Rationale and design of the INFAT study. Ann Nutr Metab. 2009; 54:97–103.