PUFA, Development, and Allergy Incidence

Also see:
Nutrition and Brain Growth in Chick Embryos
Sodium Improves Premature Infant Development
PUFA Accumulation & Aging
PUFA, Fish Oil, and Alzheimers
Blood Sugar – Resistance to Allergy and Shock
Serotonin and Autism Connection
Breastfeeding benefits babies’ brains

Quotes by Ray Peat, PhD:
“Brain tissue is very rich in complex forms of fats. The experiment (around 1978) in which pregnant mice were given diets containing either coconut oil or unsaturated oil showed that brain development was superior in the young mice whose mothers ate coconut oil. Because coconut oil supports thyroid function, and thyroid governs brain development, including myelination, the result might simply reflect the difference between normal and hypothyroid individuals. However, in 1980, experimenters demonstrated that young rats fed milk containing soy oil incorporated the oil directly into their brain cells, and had structurally abnormal brain cells as a result.

Lipid peroxidation occurs during seizures, and antioxidants such as vitamin E have some anti-seizure activity. Currently, lipid peroxidation is being found to be involved in the nerve cell degeneration of Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Prenatal exposure to estrogen, to oxygen deficiency, or to unsaturated fats decreases the size of the brain at birth. There is apparently a requirement for saturated fats during development (J. M. Bourre, N. Gozlan-Devillierre, O. Morand, and N. Baumann, “Importance of exogenous saturated fatty acids during brain development and myelination in mice,” Ann. Biol. Anim., Biochim., Biophys. 19(1B), 172-180, 1979.”

“All phases of development, from gestation to aging, are altered by the presence of the unsaturated fats, and these effects correspond closely to the loss of regenerative capacity, the ability to replenish and restore tissues.”

“Experimental evidence shows that polyunsaturated (omega-3) fats retard fetal brain development, and that sugar promotes it. These facts argue against some of the currently popular ideas of the evolution of the human brain based on ancestral diets of fish or meat, which only matters as far as those anthropological theories are used to argue against fruits and other sugars in the present diet.”

Depressed Development:

Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2010 Mar-Apr;32(2):171-81. Epub 2009 Oct 7.
Excess omega-3 fatty acid consumption by mothers during pregnancy and lactation caused shorter life span and abnormal ABRs in old adult offspring.
Church MW, Jen KL, Anumba JI, Jackson DA, Adams BR, Hotra JW.
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3 FA) during pregnancy and lactation is beneficial to fetal and infant development and might reduce the incidence and severity of preterm births by prolonging pregnancy. Consequently, supplementing maternal diets with large amounts of omega-3 FA is gaining acceptance. However, both over- and under-supplementation with omega-3 FA can harm offspring development…In conclusion, omega-3 FA over-nutrition or imbalance during pregnancy and lactation had adverse effects on life span and sensory/neurological function in old adulthood. The adverse outcomes in the Excess offspring were likely due to a “nutritional toxicity” during fetal and/or neonatal development that programmed them for life-long health disorders. The health implication is that consuming or administering large amounts of omega-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation seems inadvisable because of adverse effects on the offspring.

Another interesting association of the highly unsaturated fats and estrogen in relation to brain function is that DHA increases the entry of estrogen into the pregnant uterus, but inhibits the entry or progesterone (Benassayag, et al., 1999) which is crucual for brain cell growth. – Ray Peat, PhD

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1999 May-Jun;60(5-6):393-9.
Does high polyunsaturated free fatty acid level at the feto-maternal interface alter steroid hormone message during pregnancy?
Benassayag C, Rigourd V, Mignot TM, Hassid J, Leroy MJ, Robert B, Civel C, Grangé G, Dallot E, Tanguy J, Nunez EA, Ferré F.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are important in pregnancy, fetal development and parturition. We measured free fatty acids (FFA), albumin and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in the maternal and fetal circulations of women undergoing elective Caesarean section at term. We also studied the impact of PUFAs on estrogen (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) binding properties in vitro in the myometria of pregnant women and ex vivo in human myometrial cells in culture. FFA in intervillous blood (I) (feto-maternal interface) and maternal peripheral blood (M) were similar, while those in the umbilical vein (V) and arteries (A) were 2-4 fold lower (P<0.001). PUFA levels were low in M and 3 fold higher in I, A and V (P< 0.001); consequently C20:4 and C22:6 were most abundant in intervillous space. Albumin was uniformly distributed throughout the maternal-fetal unit, but there was a transplacental gradient in AFP. The AFP in the intervillous space had a special conformation (less immuno-reactive, more anionic), suggesting loading with PUFA. Physiological concentrations of C20:4 stimulated estradiol binding, but inhibited progestin binding. C20:4 inhibited progesterone binding by decreasing the number of binding sites, with no change in apparent affinity, in vitro in myometrial tissue and ex vivo in myometrial cells. Thus PUFA may modulate the steroid hormone message, so that the high C20:4 concentration at the maternal-fetal interface at term may help amplify the estrogen signal and inhibit the progesterone signal.

In a study of prenatal learning (habituation rate), the experimenters found that the relative absence of the supposedly essential fatty acids improved the short term and long term memory of the fetus (Dirix, et al., 2009). The size of the baby was found to be negatively associated with the highly unsaturated fatty acids DHA and AA (Dirix, et al., 2009), showing a general growth-retarding effect of these environmentally derived fats. -Ray Peat, PhD

Early Hum Dev. 2009 Aug;85(8):525-30. Epub 2009 May 27.
Associations between term birth dimensions and prenatal exposure to essential and trans fatty acids.
Dirix CE, Kester AD, Hornstra G.
Certain essential long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) are considered important for fetal growth and brain development, whereas industrial trans fatty acids (mainly 18:1trans) have been associated with negative effects. The aim of this study was to investigate associations between term birth dimensions and prenatal exposure to some of these fatty acids, reflected by neonatal fatty acid concentrations at birth.
Data of up to 700 infant-mother pairs from the Maastricht Essential Fatty Acid Birth Cohort were used for the present study. Unadjusted and multivariable-adjusted linear regression analyses were performed to investigate associations between birth weight, birth length or head circumference and relative concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), arachidonic acid (AA), dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) and trans-octadecenoic acids (18:1t) measured in phospholipids of the walls of umbilical arteries and veins, and in umbilical cord plasma and erythrocytes.
After optimal adjustment, a significant negative association was observed between birth weight and umbilical plasma DHA concentrations. Negative associations were also found for AA concentrations measured in umbilical plasma and in arterial and venous vessel walls. Birth length was negatively related to arterial vessel wall AA concentrations only. A significant negative association was observed for the relationship between 18:1t in cord erythrocytes and birth weight. For DGLA no significant associations were observed.
Results seem to preclude a role of DHA and AA as growth factors per se. Their negative relationships with birth dimensions may result from a limited maternal-fetal LCPUFA transfer capacity. Potential effects of 18:1t and DGLA on birth dimensions are probably small or non-existing.

When Dirix, et al., (2009) supplemented pregnant women with PUFA, they found that fetal memory was impaired. -Ray Peat, PhD

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009 Apr;80(4):207-12. Epub 2009 Mar 19.
Fetal learning and memory: weak associations with the early essential polyunsaturated fatty acid status.
Dirix CE, Hornstra G, Nijhuis JG.
To study the potential associations between fetal brain functions and the early essential polyunsaturated fatty acid (ePUFA) status, fetal learning and memory were assessed by repeated habituation rate measurements (HR) in fetuses of 30, 32, 34 or 36 weeks gestational age (GA). HR tests were repeated 10 min later. Both measurements were replicated in a second session at GA 38. Fetal short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM) were calculated from these habituation rates and related to concentrations of ePUFAs and their status markers, measured in umbilical artery wall phospholipids. The only relevant associations observed were positive trends (0.010<0.050) between STM measured before 38 weeks GA and concentrations of the ePUFA status markers Mead acid and Mead acid+dihomo-Mead acid, and between LTM and levels of Osbond acid, a marker of the n-3 LCPUFA status. Although these weak associations may imply some negative relationships between fetal brain functions and the early ePUFA status, we concluded that physiological differences in the availability of these fatty acids may probably not determine the differences in these primitive brain functions during the third trimester of fetal development.

“In adults, the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA are known to be immunosuppressive, but in tests on monocytes that are so important for proper development and regeneration (Sweeney, et al., 2001), and interfere with signals that govern their migration (Ferrante, et al., 1994).” -Ray Peat, PhD

Pediatr Surg Int. 2001 May;17(4):254-8.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids influence neonatal monocyte survival.
Sweeney B, Puri P, Reen DJ.
The n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential dietary constituents. They are potent modulators of the human immune response, and research has endeavoured to optimise the ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids in the lipid emulsion component of total parenteral nutrition to harness their beneficial effects in the clinical setting. PUFAs modulate apoptosis of certain tumour cells and cell lines. Monocytes, which are major effector cells of the innate immune system, play a central role in the initiation, development, and outcome of the immune response. They are crucial in the defence against invading pathogens and are involved in the lysis of infected or malignant cells, wound healing, repair, and remodeling of tissues. In the present study we investigated whether PUFAs might evoke apoptosis in newborn monocytes. Purified cord-blood monocytes collected from uncomplicated full-term pregnancies were incubated for 24 h in complete medium in the presence or absence of one of the n-3 PUFAs docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) or the n-6 PUFA arachidonic acid (AA). Following incubation, cells were triple-labelled with annexin V, CD14, and propidium iodide prior to flow-cytometric analysis to determine the degree of cell death. All experiments were performed in triplicate and data expressed as mean +/- 1 S.D. (%). In the absence of fatty acids, 30 +/- 4% of control cord monocytes underwent apoptosis or necrosis after 24 h incubation. At a concentration of 50 microM, none of the PUFAs had a significant effect on monocyte cell death, but at a dose of 100 microM, DHA resulted in 60 +/- 4% cell death (P < 0.05) while the other PUFAs had no significant effect. In contrast, at higher concentrations (200 microM), all the PUFAs significantly increased monocyte cell death (AA: 70 +/- 5%, DHA: 86 +/- 2%, EPA: 70 +/- 4%). PUFAs thus exert a potent influence on cord monocyte cell survival in vitro. Their effect is dose-dependent and DHA appears to be the most potent of the fatty acids tested. The influence of PUFAs on neonatal monocyte-cell survival suggests a novel mechanism whereby PUFAs may modulate the immune response.

J Clin Invest. 1994 March; 93(3): 1063–1070.
Neutrophil migration inhibitory properties of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The role of fatty acid structure, metabolism, and possible second messenger systems.
A Ferrante, D Goh, D P Harvey, B S Robinson, C S Hii, E J Bates, S J Hardy, D W Johnson, and A Poulos
The n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) appear to have antiinflammatory properties that can be partly explained by their biological activity on leukocytes. Since leukocyte emigration is an essential component of the inflammatory response, we have examined the effects of the n-3 PUFA (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids) on neutrophil random and chemotactic movement. Preexposure of neutrophils for 15-30 min to 1-10 micrograms/ml PUFA reduced the random and chemotactic migration to both FMLP- and fungi-activated complement. The inhibitory effect diminished with increasing saturation and carbon chain length, and methylation abolished this activity. Arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids were the most active fatty acids. The PUFA concentration required to inhibit migration was dependent on cell number, suggesting that the fatty acid effects on leukocyte migration in vivo may be governed by the stage of the inflammatory response. It was concluded that the PUFA rather than their metabolites were responsible for the inhibition since: (a) antioxidants did not prevent the PUFA-induced migration inhibition and the hydroxylated intermediates were less active, and (b) inhibitors of the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways were without effect. Inhibitors of protein kinases and calmodulin-dependent enzyme system did not prevent the PUFA-induced migration inhibition, which was also independent of phospholipase D-catalyzed hydrolysis of phospholipids. It is also shown that PUFA decrease the FMLP-induced Ca2+ mobilization.

If the very small amounts of polyunsaturated fats reaching the fetus can retard growth and brain development (Liu and Borgman, 1977; Borgman, et al., 1975) and function, it is apparently acting on some very important biological processes. The toxic effects of PUFA seen in the animal studies probably have their equivalent in humans, for example the association of childhood hyperactivity with a smaller brain. -Ray Peat, PhD

Estrogen, and another common respiratory toxin, excessive unsaturated fats, have both been demonstrated to cause the birth of small-brained, retarded animals.”-Ray Peat, PhD

Am J Vet Res. 1977 Oct;38(10):1657-9.
Influence in rats of dietary fats during the perinatal period: effects upon development and behavior of dams and offspring.
Liu YL, Borgman RF.
Female rats were fed purified rations containing 20% fat during gestation and lactation. The fat content was butter oil, an equal mixture of butter oil and lard, or safflower oil. Each litter size was reduced (at random) to 2 male and 2 female pups 1 day postpartum, and these offspring were feed a commercial ration after weaning and until they were 20 weeks of age. When dams were fed safflower oil, fewer of them produced litters after mating, and their behavior during lactation was less than optimal. Litter size and birth weights were similar in all dams producing litters. The type of fat fed to the dam in the perinatal period did not influence the growth, development, and spontaneous activity of the offspring. However, the offspring from the dams fed safflower oil exhibited poorer learning performance in a T-maze and sometimes had a longer time of inactivity following auditory stimulation than did the offspring from dams fed the other types of fats.

Am J Vet Res. 1975 Jun;36(6):795-8.
Influence of dietary fat upon rats during gestation and lactation.
Borgman RF, Bursey RG, Caffrey BC.
A comparison was made between rats fed purified rations containing different fats during gestation and lactation and rats fed a commercial ration during similar periods. The purified ration containign 20% cocoa butter did not result in appreciable differences in the mothers (body weight, behavior, litter production, and brain chemistry) or in the 1-day-old neonates (brain chemistry). The purified ration containing 20% safflower oil resulted in fewer completed gestation, in poorer maternal behavior during lactation, and in neonates with small brains. A fat-free purified ration resulted in low brain concentrations of RNA and low RNA-DNA ratios in the mothers.

Behav Brain Res. 2013 Feb 1;238:193-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.10.028. Epub 2012 Oct 22.
Maternal diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids during gestation and lactation produces autistic-like sociability deficits in adult offspring.
Jones KL1, Will MJ, Hecht PM, Parker CL, Beversdorf DQ.
Multiple studies have reported prenatal stress as a potential risk factor for the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In rodents, a significant reduction in sociability is seen in prenatally stressed offspring of genetically stress-susceptible dams. Certain dietary factors that contribute to stress reactivity may, therefore, exacerbate prenatal stress-mediated behavioral changes in adult offspring. Adults with a diet rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) display increased stress reactivity. In the current study, the effects of prenatal diet and prenatal stress on social behavior in adult offspring mice were examined. Pregnant C57BL/6J dams received either chronic variable stress or no stress, and were also placed on a control diet or a diet rich in omega-6 PUFAs, in a 2×2 design. We subsequently tested the adult offspring for sociability, anxiety, and locomotor behaviors using a 3-chambered social approach task, an elevated-plus maze, an open field task and a rotarod task. Results indicated that a maternal diet rich in omega-6 PUFAs during gestation and lactation produce changes in sociability consistent with those observed in ASD. Additionally, offspring exposed to a diet rich in omega-6 PUFAs during gestation and lactation had increased levels of anxiety in the elevated-plus maze. Prenatal stress had no effect on offspring behavior. These findings provide evidence for a possible environmental risk factor that contributes to the production of autistic-like behavior in mice.

No Improvement:

Am J Clin Nutr June 2011 vol. 93 no. 6 1293-1299
Maternal supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid during pregnancy does not affect early visual development in the infant: a randomized controlled trial
Lisa G Smithers, Robert A Gibson, and Maria Makrides
Background: The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake of pregnant women is lower than estimates of the DHA accretion by the fetus, and recommendations were made to increase the DHA intake of pregnant women.
Objective: The objective of this study was to determine whether the supplementation of pregnant women with DHA improved the visual acuity of infants at 4 mo.
Design: We conducted a blinded assessment of a subset of healthy, full-term infants born to women enrolled in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial called the DHA for Maternal and Infant Outcomes (DOMInO) trial. Women were randomly assigned to consume DHA-rich fish-oil capsules (≈800 mg DHA/d in the treatment group) or vegetable oil capsules (control group) from midpregnancy to delivery. The primary outcome was the sweep visual evoked potential (VEP) acuity at 4 mo. The VEP latency at 4 mo was a secondary outcome.
Results: Mean (±SD) VEP acuity did not differ between treatment and control groups [treatment group: 8.37 ± 2.11 cycles per degree (cpd), n = 89; control group: 8.55 ± 1.86 cpd, n = 93; P = 0.55]. VEP latencies also did not differ between groups. Irrespective of the group, maternal smoking in pregnancy was independently associated with poorer VEP acuity in the infant.
Conclusions: DHA supplementation in women with singleton pregnancies does not enhance infant visual acuity in infants at 4 mo of age. Visual acuity in infancy is adversely associated with maternal smoking in pregnancy.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Dec;94(6):1880S-8S. Epub 2011 Aug 17.
Effects of prenatal fish-oil and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate supplementation on cognitive development of children at 6.5 y of age.
Campoy C, Escolano-Margarit MV, Ramos R, Parrilla-Roure M, Csábi G, Beyer J, Ramirez-Tortosa MC, Molloy AM, Decsi T, Koletzko BV.
The influence of prenatal long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and folate on neurologic development remains controversial.
The objective was to assess the long-term effects of n-3 (omega-3) LC-PUFA supplementation, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) supplementation, or both in pregnant women on cognitive development of offspring at 6.5 y of age.
This was a follow-up study of the NUHEAL (Nutraceuticals for a Healthier Life) cohort. Healthy pregnant women in 3 European centers were randomly assigned to 4 intervention groups. From the 20th week of pregnancy until delivery, they received a daily supplement of 500 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) + 150 mg eicosapentaenoic acid [fish oil (FO)], 400 μg 5-MTHF, or both or a placebo. Infants received formula containing 0.5% DHA and 0.4% arachidonic acid (AA) if they were born to mothers receiving FO supplements or were virtually free of DHA and AA until the age of 6 mo if they belonged to the groups that were not supplemented with FO. Fatty acids and folate concentrations were determined in maternal blood at weeks 20 and 30 of pregnancy, at delivery, and in cord blood. Cognitive function was assessed at 6.5 y of age with the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC).
We observed no significant differences in K-ABC scores between intervention groups. Higher DHA in maternal erythrocytes at delivery was associated with a Mental Processing Composite Score higher than the 50th percentile in the offspring.
We observed no significant effect of supplementation on the cognitive function of children, but maternal DHA status may be related to later cognitive function in children. This trial was registered at as NCT01180933.

Allergy Incidence

Clin Exp Allergy. 2004 Feb;34(2):194-200.
Maternal breast milk long-chain n-3 fatty acids are associated with increased risk of atopy in breastfed infants.
Stoney RM, Woods RK, Hosking CS, Hill DJ, Abramson MJ, Thien FC.
Australia has one of the highest prevalence rates internationally of allergic conditions, such as asthma and eczema. Atopy is one hallmark for the development of allergic disease and predisposes to allergic inflammation in the target organs. omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids (FAs) are thought to act as precursors to the formation of less active inflammatory mediators, with the potential to reduce inflammation.
To investigate whether increased n-3 FA levels in maternal breast milk are associated with a lower risk of developing atopy in infancy.
Subjects were part of the prospective Melbourne atopy cohort study, which involved 620 children born into families where at least one first-degree relative had an atopic disease. Some 224 women (mean age 31.4+/-4.2 (SD) years, with 73.2% (n=164) having self-reported atopy) provided either a colostrum (n=194) or 3-month expressed breast milk (EBM) sample (n=118). Maternal colostrum and 3-month EBM samples were analysed for FA content by gas chromatography. Skin prick tests (SPTs) to six common allergens were performed on infants at 6, 12 and 24 months of age and on mothers who agreed at study entry.
For infants sensitized to foods at 6 months (n=29), the total n-3 FA level in the colostrum was significantly higher (P=0.004) as were levels of individual long-chain n-3 FAs, docosoapentaenoic acid (DPA, C22:5, P=0.001) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6, P=0.002) than in non-sensitized infants. Infants with aero-allergen sensitization at 24 months (n=30) had higher levels of the n-3 FA, DPA (P=0.002) and DHA (P=0.007), and similarly higher total n-3 FA (P=0.009) in maternal colostrum than those infants who were not sensitized.
Higher n-3 FA levels in the colostrum do not appear to confer protection against, but may be a risk factor for, the eventual development of atopy in high-risk breastfed infants.

Clin Exp Allergy. 2008 Nov;38(11):1745-51. Epub 2008 Aug 12.
Associations between fatty acids in colostrum and breast milk and risk of allergic disease.
Lowe AJ, Thien FC, Stoney RM, Bennett CM, Hosking CS, Hill DJ, Carlin JB, Abramson MJ, Dharmage SC.
Exposure to n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in early life is hypothesized to offer protection against atopic disease. However, there is controversy in this area, and we have previously observed that high levels of n-3 fatty acid (FA) in colostrum are associated with increased risk of allergic sensitization.
The aim of the study was to assess the relationship between FA profile in breast milk and risk of childhood atopic disease.
A high-risk birth cohort was recruited, and a total of 224 mothers provided a sample of colostrum (n=194) and/or 3-month expressed breast milk (n=118). FA concentrations were determined by gas chromatography. Presence of eczema, asthma and rhinitis were prospectively documented up to 7 years of age.
High levels of n-3 22:5 FA (docosapentaenoic acid, DPA) in colostrum were associated with increased risk of infantile atopic eczema [odds ratio (OR)=1.66 per 1 standard deviation increase, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.11-2.48], while total n-3 concentration in breast milk was associated with increased risk of non-atopic eczema (OR=1.60, 95% CI=1.03-2.50). Higher levels of total n-6 FA in colostrum were associated with increased risk of childhood rhinitis (OR=1.59, 95% CI=1.12-2.25). There was no evidence of associations between FA profile and risk of asthma.
In this cohort of high-risk children, a number of modest associations were observed between FA concentrations in colostrum and breast milk and allergic disease outcomes. Further research in this area with larger sample sizes is needed.

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2006 Feb;17(1):4-10.
Atopy, eczema and breast milk fatty acids in a high-risk cohort of children followed from birth to 5 yr.
Oddy WH, Pal S, Kusel MM, Vine D, de Klerk NH, Hartmann P, Holt PG, Sly PD, Burton PR, Stanley FJ, Landau LI.
The incidence of atopic diseases such as eczema is increasing in westernized societies. The suggestion that there is a “protective” association between the unique fatty acid composition of breast milk, particularly the omega-3 (n-3) and omega-6 (n-6) essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content, and the development of atopic disease in children was investigated in a cohort study of 263 infants born into families with a history of allergy (one or both parents had asthma, hayfever, eczema). The objectives of this study were to determine the lipid profile [specifically in relation to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LC-PUFA) composition] in maternal breast milk samples collected at 6 wk and at 6 months following birth, and to investigate the potential role of these fatty acids in modulating the phenotype of children at high genetic risk of developing atopic disease.
Breast milk samples were available from 91 atopic mothers at their child’s ages of 6 wk and 6 months. These samples were analysed for the fatty acid spectrum. Analysis of variance was used to detect differences between groups of outcomes (no atopy or eczema, non-atopic eczema, atopy, atopic eczema) at ages 6 months and 5 yr, and a multiple comparisons procedure was conducted to isolate the parameters producing the different results (F-test, LSD test). For the exposure variables, n-3 and n-6 fatty acids are expressed as weight percentage and as a ratio (at both time-points).
The fatty acid profiles of maternal breast milk at 6 wk and 6 months were similar. An increased ratio of n-6: n-3 fatty acids in both 6 wk and 6 month milk samples was associated with non-atopic eczema (p < 0.005) but not atopy alone or atopic eczema.
We found milk fatty acids were a significant modulator of non-atopic eczema but not atopy or atopic eczema in infants at 6 months. In mothers with a history of asthma, hayfever or eczema, their 6-month-old infants were more likely to develop non-atopic eczema if their milk had a higher ratio of n-6: n-3 LC-PUFA.

Acta Paediatr. 1996 Jun;85(6):679-83.
Phospholipid fatty acids in cord blood: family history and development of allergy.
Yu G, Kjellman NI, Björkstén B.
The fatty acid composition of umbilical cord serum phospholipids was investigated by gas chromatography in 33 infants with allergic and 35 babies of non-allergic mothers. The relative levels of the linoleic acid metabolites C20:3, arachidonic acid (AA, C20:4) and C22:4n-6, and two alpha-linolenic acid metabolites, i.e. eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, C22:6) were significantly higher in infants of allergic mothers than in non-allergic mothers (all p < 0.05). Furthermore, an altered proportional relationship between the various fatty acids in n-6 series fatty acids and between n-3 and n-6 series fatty acids was present already at birth in infants who developed allergic disease during their first 6 years of life. These observations cannot be employed for the prediction of allergy, however, as the individual variations were considerable.

“EFA Deficiency” found in Newborns:

“The fetus produces saturated fats such as palmitic acid, and the monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, which can be turned into the Mead acid, ETrA (5,8,11-eicosatrienoic acid), and its derivatives, which are antiinflammatory, and some of which act on the “bliss receptor,” or the cannibinoid receptor.

At birth, the baby’s mitochondria contain a phospholipid, cardiolipin, containing palmitic acid, but as the baby eats foods containing polyunsaturated fatty acids, the palmitic acid in cardiolipin is replaced by the unsaturated fats. As the cardiolipin becomes more unsaturated, it becomes less stable, and less able to support the activity of the crucial respiratory enzyme, cytochrome oxidase.” -Ray Peat, PhD

“The fatty acids of newborn humans, and other non-ruminants, reflect their mothers’ diets more closely, but Mead acid is still present in human newborns (Al, et al., 1990).” -Ray Peat, PhD

Early Hum Dev. 1990 Dec;24(3):239-48.
Biochemical EFA status of mothers and their neonates after normal pregnancy.
Al MD, Hornstra G, van der Schouw YT, Bulstra-Ramakers MT, Huisjes HJ.
The essential fatty acid (EFA) status of neonates was compared with that of their mothers by determining the fatty acid compositions of phospholipids (PL), isolated from umbilical arterial and venous tissue, blood cells (BC) and plasma, from maternal venous plasma and BC, and from non-infarcted placental tissue. The PL of umbilical arterial tissue (efferent fetal vessels) contained fewer fatty acids of the (n-6) family and more of the (n-9) family than umbilical venous tissue (afferent fetal vessel). The relative amounts of (n-6) and (n-3) fatty acids were less in arterial than in venous plasma. Mead acid, 20:3(n-9), the presence of which indicates a poor EFA status, was 5 times higher in the efferent than in afferent cord vessels. In neonatal plasma and BC it was twice as high as compared with maternal levels. In general, the fatty acid composition of the placenta PL showed a comparable pattern as neonatal venous plasma PL. These findings demonstrate that the biochemical EFA status of neonates after a normal pregnancy is not optimal. The significant correlations between neonatal and maternal EFAs indicate that the neonatal EFA status depends on the EFA content of the maternal diet.

This progressive increase [in PUFA] with age can be seen already in early childhood (Guerra, et al., 2007). -Ray Peat, PhD

Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(5):433-8. Epub 2007 Nov 20.
Three-year tracking of fatty acid composition of plasma phospholipids in healthy children.
Guerra A, Demmelmair H, Toschke AM, Koletzko B.
The fatty acid composition of plasma phospholipids reflects the dietary fatty acid intake as well as endogenous turnover. We aimed at investigating the potential tracking of plasma phospholipid fatty acid composition in children that participated in a prospective cohort study.
26 healthy children participated in a longitudinal study on health risks and had been enrolled after birth. All children were born at term with birth weights appropriate for gestational age. Follow-up took place at ages 24, 36 and 60 months. At each time point a 24-hour dietary recall was obtained, anthropometric parameters were measured and a blood sample for phospholipid fatty acid analysis was taken.
Dietary intake of saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids at the three time points were not correlated. We found lower values for plasma MUFA and the MUFA/SFA ratio at 60 months compared to 24 months. In contrast, total PUFA, total n-6 and n-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) were higher at 60 months. Significant averaged correlation coefficients (average of Pearson’s R for 24 versus 36 months and 36 versus 60 months) were found for n-6 LC-PUFA (r = 0.67), n-6/n-3 LC-PUFA ratio (r = 0.59) and arachidonic acid/linoleic acid ratio (r = 0.64). Partial tracking was found for the docosahexaenoic acid/alpha-linolenic acid ratio (r = 0.33). Body mass index and sum of skinfolds Z-scores were similar in the three evaluations.
A significant tracking of n-6 LC-PUFA, n-6 LC-PUFA/n-3 LC-PUFA ratio, arachidonic acid/linoleic acid ratio and docosahexaenoic acid/alpha-linolenic acid ratio may reflect an influence of individual endogenous fatty acid metabolism on plasma concentrations of some, but not all, fatty acids.

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