, Volume 39, Issue 7, pp 617-626

Gestational age and birth weight in relation to n−3 fatty acids among inuit (Canada)

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Abstract

Seafood consumption during pregnancy carries both benefits (high n−3 FA intake) and risks (exposure to environmental contaminants) for the developing fetus. We determined the impacts of marine n−3 FA and environmental contaminants on gestational age (GA) of Nunavik women and the anthropometric characteristics of their newborns. FA and contaminant (polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury) concentrations were measured in cord plasma of Nuvavik newborns (n=454) and compared with those of a group of newborns (n=29) from southern Québec. Data were collected from hospital records and birth certificates. In Nunavik newborns, arachidonic acid (AA) was two times lower (P<0.0001), whereas DHA concentration, the Σn−3/Σn−6 ratio, and the percentage of n−3 highly unsaturated FA (HUFA) (of the total HUFA) were three times higher (P<0.0001) compared with southern Québec newborns. After controlling for confounders, GA and birth weight were higher by 5.4 d [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.7–10.1] and 77 g (95% CI: −64 to 217) in the third tertile of percentage of n−3 HUFA (of the total HUFA) as compared with the first tertile. There was no evidence that contaminants had negative effects on GA or birth weight. In this seafood-eating population, an increase in the proportion of n−3 HUFA (of the total HUFA), measured in umbilical cord plasma phospholipids, was associated with a significantly longer GA.