Volume 14, Number 3-4, Mai-Août 2007
|Page(s)||155 - 158|
|Section||PUFAs for brain development in early life|
|Published online||15 May 2007|
Perinatal long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supply Are there long term consequences?
Labor für Stoffwechsel und Ernährung, Dr. von Hauner Children’s Hospital, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Lindwurmstr. 4, D-80337 Muenchen, Germany
2 Department of Animal Physiology, Biological Faculty, University of Murcia, Spain
Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are essential components of biological membranes or act as precursors for eicosanoid formation, in case of the 20 carbon atom fatty acids, arachidonic acid (AA), dihomo-c-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. During pregnancy LC-PUFA are enriched in the fetal circulation relative to maternal plasma. The corresponding placental processes have not been fully elucidated so far, but there are good indications that the LC-PUFA enrichment during the materno-fetal transfer is mediated by differences in the incorporation into lipid classes within the placenta between fatty acids and that specific fatty acid binding and transfer proteins are of major importance. In vitro a plasma membrane fatty acid binding protein could be identified, which preferentially binds DHA and AA compared to linoleic and oleic acids; in addition the m-RNA expression of fatty acid transfer protein 4 (FATP-4) in placental tissue was found to correlate significantly with the DHA percentage in cord blood phospholipids. After birth the percentage of LC-PUFA in infantile blood rapidly declines to levels depending on the dietary LC-PUFA supply, although preterm and full-term babies can convert linoleic and _-linolenic acids into AA and DHA, respectively. Breast milk provides preformed LC-PUFA, and breastfed infants have higher LC-PUFA levels in plasma and tissue than infants fed formulas without LC-PUFA. The high percentage of DHA in brain and other nervous tissue and the fact that the perinatal period is a period of fast brain growth suggests the importance of placental DHA transfer and dietary DHA content for optimal infantile development. Most but not all randomized, double blind, controlled clinical trials in preterm and in healthy full term infants demonstrated benefits of formulas supplemented with DHA and AA for the neurological development compared to formulas without LC-PUFA. Furthermore, according to the concept of “metabolic programming” during the perinatal period a dietary factor, such as the availability of LC-PUFA, might have long term consequences. From the available data it has to be assumed that LC-PUFA are conditionally essential substrates during early life and a further investigation of the biological mechanisms related to their availability for the infant and of potential life long effects on cognitive function and potentially also risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and allergy are certainly warranted.
Key words: fatty acid transport protein / foetus / placenta / stable isotopes / infantile neurological development
© John Libbey Eurotext 2007
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