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Body composition, energy expenditure and physical activity

Associations between long-chain PUFAs in maternal blood, cord blood, and breast milk and offspring body composition up to 5 years: follow-up from the INFAT study



Limited research suggests that exposure to long-chain PUFAs (LCPUFAs) during perinatal development can influence adipose tissue expansion later in life. In previous analyses, we observed that maternal LCPUFAs in late gestation promote offspring gestational growth, whereas breast milk n-3 LCPUFAS promote adipogenesis in infants up to 1 year. This follow-up analysis examines these relationships in offspring up to 5 years.


In this observational study of 169 children, relationships between n-3, n-6 LCPUFAs, and the n-6/n-3 LCPUFA ratio in maternal blood at 32 weeks’ gestation, cord blood, and breast milk, and anthropometry in offspring from 2 to 5 years were investigated. Body composition was assessed with indirect (i.e., body weight, BMI percentiles, sum of four skinfold thicknesses) and direct (i.e., ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging in a subgroup) measurement tools.


Maternal and cord blood LCPUFAs were largely not shown to be related to offspring body composition. Breast milk n-3 LCPUFAs were significantly positively related to several measurements of child anthropometry at 2 and 4 y, but only a positive relationship between n-3 LCPUFAs and lean body mass remained statistically significant at 5 y. Breast milk n-6/n-3 LCPUFA ratio was inversely related to weight and BMI percentiles at 2 y, and lean body mass at 4 and 5 y.


Results from this follow-up do not provide sufficient evidence that LCPUFAs in maternal blood, cord blood, and breast milk predict offspring adiposity in children up to 5 years.

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We are grateful to the parents and children who participated in the INFAT study.

Funding information

Supported by grants from the Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation, Bad Homburg; the International Unilever Foundation, Hamburg; the European Union-funded Early Nutrition Programming Project (EARNEST) consortium (FOOD-CT-2005-007036); the German Ministry of Education and Research via the Competence Network Obesity (Kompetenznetz Adipositas, 01GI0842); and Danone Research-Centre for Specialized Nutrition, Friedrichsdorf, Germany.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence to Hans Hauner.

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