Editor-in-Chief: Dudenhausen, MD, FRCOG, Joachim W.
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Considerable evidence exists for marked beneficial effects of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) during pregnancy. The omega-3 LC-PUFA docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is incorporated in large amounts in fetal brain and other tissues during the second half of pregnancy, and several studies have provided evidence for a link between early DHA status of the mother and visual and cognitive development of her child after birth. Moreover, the supplementation of omega-3 LC-PUFA during pregnancy increases slightly infant size at birth, and significantly reduces early preterm birth before 34 weeks of gestation by 31%. In our studies using stable isotope methodology in vivo, we demonstrated active and preferential materno-fetal transfer of DHA across the human placenta and found the expression of human placental fatty acid binding and transport proteins. From the correlation of DHA values with placental fatty acid transport protein 4 (FATP 4), we conclude that this protein is of key importance in mediating DHA transport across the human placenta. Given the great importance of placental DHA transport for infant outcome, further studies are needed to fully appreciate the effects and optimal strategies of omega-3 fatty acid interventions in pregnancy, dose response relationships, and the potential differences between subgroups of subjects such as women with gestational diabetes or other gestational pathology. Such studies should contribute to optimize substrate intake during pregnancy and lactation that may improve pregnancy outcome as well as fetal growth and development.
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