Washington D.C.: Turns out, mums-to-be's "fishy" way of cutting their babies' risk of childhood obesity is ineffective.
Up to now, the general consensus had been that "bad" fats, especially omega-6 fatty acids, consumed during pregnancy increased the formation of infantile fat cells, while "good" omega-3 fatty acids protected the child against becoming overweight.
Since, in the animal model, an increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation coupled with a simultaneous reduction in arachidonic acids resulted in offspring with a significantly lower tendency to become overweight, the INFAT human study was the first to investigate whether this result was translatable onto humans.
Professor Hans Hauner from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) said, "Translating the findings from animal trials onto the human organism is always a challenge. However, the prospects of this being applicable were extremely attractive: had it been confirmed, mothers would have been able to protect to ensure lifelong protection for their offspring against becoming overweight, or even obese, right from the very start."
208 women with an average age of 32 years and a BMI of 22 took part in this study. While half of the study group continued with a normal diet, the other 104-women-strong group ate an omega-3 rich diet coupled with a significant reduction in meat consumption (contains omega-6 fatty acids) from the twelfth week of pregnancy to the fourth month of lactation. The children of the cohort mothers were examined once a year until the age of five, making the INFAT study the first study to deliver valid data over such an extended period.
"This special diet had no effect on the weight of the babies and toddlers," noted Hauner. This proves that the earlier findings are not translatable onto humans and that the hoped-for benefit of such a diet is questionable as it does not appear to prevent childhood obesity.
According to the study's authors, it might, however, be possible that a mother's diet during early pregnancy has other beneficial effects, which would have to be determined in further clinical studies.
The study appears in the journal American Journal of Clinical Nutrition....