All of the leading infant formula makers now offer formula with added fatty acids but scientists funded by the EU say that the effects of dietary fatty acids taken by pregnant or lactating mothers, or given to newborn children, have not been adequately evaluated.
Their project, PeriLip, is aiming to define the role of fatty acids in foetal growth and neonatal development, and their effects on health in later life.
The researchers will look at the fatty acid profiles of foetuses with different patterns of intrauterine growth, investigating factors that can influence the availability of specific fatty acids to the foetus and to the newborn infant, such as diet, maternal adipose tissue composition, placental function and milk composition. They are also planning to research the consequences for placental function, foetal growth, neonatal development and perinatal oxidative characteristics, of manipulating the dietary fatty acid composition.
Their findings could lead to specific dietary recommendations for pregnant and lactating women.
Preliminary results from the project show that dietary fatty acids during pregnancy greatly influence maternal plasma and adipose tissue fatty acid profile and affect foetal and postnatal development. They also show that an excess of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy enhances the oxidative stress and affects postnatal development.
Further findings to date suggest that the fate of orally administered fatty acids after their placental transfer varies as a function of their degree of unsaturation. Analysis of results is needed before quantitative requirements for individual fatty acids are examined and formulation recommendations of diets in the various stages of pregnancy and lactation can be given.
More information on this project can be obtained from Dr Emilio Herrera at the Facultad de Ciencias Experimentales y de la Salud,Universidad San Pablo-CEUCtra in Madrid. (Tel: +34 913724730).