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Elevated levels of omega-6/omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the placenta are associated with increased risk of developing obesity in children

21 July 2023

The placenta is the organ that communicates between the mother and the developing fetus during pregnancy. It has specific proteins, called "fatty acid transport proteins" (FATPs), which are necessary for the transport of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), which come from the mother.

The Metabolic Maternofetal Research Group of the Institute of Biomedical Research of Girona (IDIBGI), led by Dr. Judit Bassols, has published a study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (IJMS), where research has been carried out.

Specifically, the associations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and n-6/n-3 ratios present in the placenta with obesity-related parameters in the offspring when these children were six years old were assessed. We also assessed whether these associations could depend on gene expression levels of fatty acid transporter proteins (FATPs).

The study has shown that a higher ratio of n-6/n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (specifically the so-called AA/EPA) in placentae is associated with excessive fat accumulation. Consequently, this would entail a higher risk of developing obesity in the offspring at the age of six years, especially in those cases in which the placentas had a higher expression of FATPs transporters.

The research team of the study, with predoctoral researcher Ariadna Gómez as first author, concludes that these results highlight the importance of maternal diet during pregnancy. It also highlights the role that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can play in fetal programming, and the future risk of obesity in childhood.

The article has been carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of Lleida, the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute, CIBERDEM and the University of Leuven.

Reference article: Gómez-Villarubla A, Mas-Parés B, Carreras-Badosa G, Jové M, Berdún R, Bonmatí-Santané A, de Zegher F, Ibañez L, López-Bermejo A and Bassols J (2023) Placental AA/EPA Ratio Is Associated with Obesity Risk Parameters in the Offspring at 6 Years of Age. Int J Mol Sci 24(12):10087.

DOI: 10.3390/ijms241210087.

Study co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) "A way of making Europe".


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