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Fish in the diet of pregnant women could contribute to the intellectual future of their babies. (Photo: Cordis / NUTRIMENTHE / FIS)

Fish in pregnancy could enhance intellectual capacity of babies

EUROPEAN UNION
Wednesday, January 11, 2012, 16:30 (GMT + 9)

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the children of women who ate more fish during pregnancy produced better results on tests of verbal intelligence, complex motor skills and behaviours leading to socialization.

That is the conclusion of the project Nutrimenthe ("Effect of diet on children's intellectual ability"), financed with EUR 5.9 million through the "Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, and Biotechnology" (KBBE) of the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (7FP), according to CORDIS.

Oily fish are the most important source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a key structural component of cells and especially the brain cell membrane.

The European Commission (EC) supports claims that DHA "contributes to the normal brain development and normal eye development of the fetus and breastfed infant."

In the Nutrimenthe study, researchers studied the way that fish influences in this effect and genetic variation in intellectual ability. The project partners were devoted mainly to the study of polymorphisms in the group of genes of the fatty acid desaturase (FADS), which enzymes delta-5 and delta-6 desaturase involved in the synthesis of fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 encode.

After analyzing blood samples from more than 2,000 women in the twentieth week of pregnancy and umbilical cord after birth, the research team evaluated the two fatty acids mentioned above and the genotype of 18 single nucleotide polymorphisms of the FADS.

The group administered omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 to developing babies with placental transfer through the umbilical cord. So far, the influence of the genotypes of the maternal and child FADS in the concentration of these fatty acids had not been examined.

Dr. Eva Lattka from Munich Helmholtz Centre, the German Research Centre for Environmental Health, and her team found that polymorphisms in the gene pool of the FADS have an influence on fatty acids of pregnant women.

According to the researchers, the composition of fatty acids in cord blood requires maternal and child genotypes, so that maternal genotypes are mostly associated with omega-3 precursors, and children to those of omega-6. They also found that the concentration of DHA was also associated with the genotypes of the mother and child.

"There is more contribution to omega-6 fatty acid synthesis by the fetus than previously expected; DHA levels are dependent on both maternal and child metabolism," said Dr. Lattka. "DHA supplied by the mother might be very important."

In a previous study it was found that fish consumption during pregnancy is associated with verbal IQ at age eight, but which fish component influenced this effect could not be stated. The study identified that fish consumption is related to maternal DHA concentration but whether maternal DHA concentration has a direct influence on children was not established.

The project Nutrimenthe will go deeper into this issue before the end of 2013.

Related article:

- Consuming fish oil could speed up mental peformance: study


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