In utero undernourishment is believed to alter the body's metabolic programmming, increasing the risk of adult diseases in offspring. But supplementing the diet with fish oil during pregnancy can reduce the risk, according to new research published this month in the Journal of Nutrition.
A team of scientists from the Department of Biometry and Nutrition Unit, Agharkar Research Institute, NPIL-Dr, Golwilkar Laboratories and the National Centre for Cell Science all in Pune, India set out to investigate whether dietary supplementation of specific nutrients could improve the negative effects of maternal malnutrition.
They examined the effects of supplementing fish oil or folic acid, both of which are conventional supplements in maternal intervention, on risk factors in the offspring as adults.
Pregnant female rats from four groups, with six rats in each group, were fed casein diets with 18 g/100 g protein (control diet), 12 g/100 g protein supplemented with 8 mg folic acid/kg diet (0.08 mg/kg diet) (FAS), 12 g/100 g protein without folic acid (FAD) or 12 g/100 g protein supplemented with 7 g/100 g fish oil (FOIL).
The young were weaned to a standard laboratory diet with 18 g/100 g protein. Serum glucose, insulin and cholesterol and plasma homocysteine levels were measured in the offspring at six and 11 months of age. Serum glucose in 11-month old male and female pups was greater in both the FAS and FAD groups than in controls.
The team found serum insulin concentrations were higher in the FAD group but were lower in males from the FAS group compared with controls. Glucose and insulin concentrations did not differ between the control and FOIL groups. Plasma homocysteine levels were lower only in 11-month old folate-deficient males; none of the other groups differed from the controls.
As a result the researchers concluded that maternal supplementation of fish oil to a diet containing marginal protein was beneficial in maintaining circulating glucose, insulin, cholesterol and homocysteine levels in the offspring as adults.