Latest Findings of Omega-3 Long Chain-Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: From Molecular Mechanisms to New Applications in Health and Diseases

Role of Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Pregnancy and Lactation: Fetal and Infant Growth

Author(s): Maricela Rodriguez-Cruz

Pp: 11-22 (12)

DOI: 10.2174/978160805177911101010011

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


The purpose of this review is to provide an overview regarding the role of ω-3 and ω-6 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on normal growth and maturation of the central nervous system and retina of the fetus, newborn and infant. Numerous studies have shown that DHA is associated with higher scores on tests of visual and neural development in infants and children. We also present progress concerning the molecular mechanism triggered during pregnancy and lactation to support LC-PUFAs requirements. During pregnancy, the fetus demands LC-PUFAs, which are provided through placental transfer. Placental transfer of fatty acids involves a multi-step process of uptake and translocation facilitated by specific proteins that favor DHA and AA over other fatty acids. After birth, the newborn acquires the LC-PUFAs from milk or formula. LC-PUFAs from cord blood and breast milk are acquired from the maternal diet, mobilized from reserves, or synthesized de novo in the maternal organism from the precursors linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (LNA). The mother adapts her metabolism to support this draining of LC-PUFAs through mammary tissue, using a high rate of dietary uptake and allowing the expression of enzymes responsible for LC-PUFAs synthesis. We have demonstrated that mammary tissue, together with the liver, plays an important role in the synthesis of ω-3 and ω-6 LC-PUFAs to supply to the product in pregnancy and lactation.

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