APPROXIMATELY 75% of foetal oxygen consumption of sheep can be accounted for by the uptake of glucose from the umbilical circulation1–3 and catabolism of amino acids4. The contribution to foetal energy metabolism of exogenous long-chain fatty acids5 and fructose1 seems to be negligible. We report now that the placenta normally provides lactate for the foetus, in sufficient quantities to account for 25% of foetal oxidative metabolism. This finding invalidates the assumption that under normal physiological conditions there is a net flux of lactate from foetus to mother. The assumption seemed reasonable in the past because the concentration of lactate in foetal blood is greater than in maternal blood and because of the formerly prominent hypothesis that anaerobic metabolism is very active in foetal life.
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