Fatty acid status of women of reproductive age

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2001 Jul;55(7):518-24. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601176.


Objective: Healthy foetal and infant development is dependent on an adequate maternal supply of essential and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). While there are published data on the fatty acid status of pregnant women, there are few on the status of non-pregnant women of reproductive age. The aims of this study were to test the hypotheses that the fatty acid status of non-pregnant women is affected by socio-economic status and anthropometric, behavioural and obstetric factors.

Design: Observational study

Methods: One-hundred and thirty-five women of child-bearing age (mean 29.8 y, s.d. 6.92) were invited to provide a blood sample and to answer a questionnaire, of whom 114 were included in the study. Plasma and red cell total fatty acids were measured as their methyl esters by gas chromatography mass spectrometry.

Results: On multivariate analyses, use of hormonal contraception was independently associated with lower plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids (difference between means -2.76, 95% confidence interval (-4.64, -0.88), P=0.0034), whereas cigarette smoking was associated with higher red cell oleic acid (0.74 (0.18, 1.29), P=0.0094). Fish intake was associated with higher red cell total n-3 fatty acids (0.62 (0.27, 0.85), P=0.0014).

Conclusions: We have reported data on the range of the fatty acids of plasma and red blood cells (RBC) total lipids of 114 healthy women of reproductive age. These data provide further information on how socio-economic, anthropometric, behavioural and obstetric factors may be relevant to female and nutrition and health.

Sponsorship: University of Glasgow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / blood*
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / blood*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood*
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / administration & dosage
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils