British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Effect of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids during the perinatal period on later body composition

G. Rodrígueza1a2a3 c1, I. Iglesiaa1, S. Bel-Serrata1 and L. A. Morenoa1a4

a1 GENUD (Growth, Excercise, NUtrition and Development) Research Group, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

a2 Departamento de Pediatría, Radiología y Medicina Física, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain

a3 Hospital Clínico Universitario Lozano Blesa. Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud, Zaragoza, Spain

a4 Escuela Universitaria de Ciencias de la Salud, University of Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain


A systematic review to identify studies reporting the effects of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) intake, during pregnancy and postnatally, on infants and young children's body composition was performed. A structured search strategy was performed in the MEDLINE (PubMed), EMBASE, and LILACS databases. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were defined according to the research question. Only those studies addressing the relationship between n-3 LCPUFA exposure during the perinatal period and later adiposity measured in terms of weight, height, body mass index (BMI), skinfold thickness and/or circumferences were included regardless of the study design. Studies quality was scored and were thereafter categorised into those reporting on maternal intake of n-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy or lactation (6 publications) or on infant's n-3 LCPUFA intake (7 publications). Two studies showed inverse associations between maternal n-3 LCPUFA intake and children's later body composition (lower adiposity, BMI or body weight), two showed direct associations and no effects were observed in the remaining two studies. Among those studies focusing on n-3 LCPUFA intake through enriched infant formulas; three observed no effect on later body composition and two showed higher weight and adiposity with increased amounts of n-3 LCPUFA. Reversely, in two studies weight and fat mass decreased. In conclusion, reported body composition differences in infants and young children were not clearly explained by perinatal n-3 LCPUFA intake via supplemented formulas, breastfeeding or maternal intakes of n-3 LCPUFA during pregnancy and lactation. Associated operational mechanisms including n-3 LCPUFA doses and sources applied are not sufficiently explained and therefore no conclusions could be made.


c1 Corresponding author: G. Rodríguez, fax +34 976 761 726, email


Abbreviations: LCPUFA, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids; LA, linoleic acid; EPA, eicosapentaenoic acid; DHA, docosahexaenoic acid; ALA, alpha linolenic acid; AA, araquidonic acid; BMI, body mass index; BF, body fat; FFM, fat free mass; GLA, gamma-linolenic acid; PMA, postmenstrual age; RCT, randomized controlled trial