Relationship Between Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids at Birth and Motor Function at 7 Years of Age

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;63(4):499-504. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602971. Epub 2007 Dec 19.


Background/objectives: Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) rapidly accumulate in the central nervous system (CNS) during the perinatal CNS growth spurt. This particularly concerns arachidonic acid (AA: 20:4n-6) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA: 22:6n-3), which are thought to play important roles in CNS development and function. The aim of this study was to investigate the relation between motor function at 7 years of age and the levels of AA and DHA in umbilical venous plasma phospholipids, representing the prenatal availability of these fatty acids, and in plasma phospholipids sampled at age 7 years.

Subjects/methods: Motor function was assessed both quantitatively (the ability to perform a movement) and qualitatively (how the movement is performed) with the Maastricht Motor Test (MMT) in 306 children, born at term, at 7 years of age as part of a follow-up study.

Results: Backward stepwise multiple regression analyses revealed a significant, positive relation between umbilical plasma DHA concentrations (but not plasma DHA levels at 7 years) and the MMT total and quality score, corrected for the covariables gender, cognitive performance, gestational age and age at measurement (partial beta=0.13, P=0.01 and 0.14, P=0.01, respectively). The contributions of DHA and AA (both at birth and at 7 years of age) to quantitative movement scores were not significant.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that prenatal DHA availability, which can be influenced by maternal dietary DHA intake during pregnancy, can have an effect on quality of movement in later life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / blood*
  • Child
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / blood*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Regression Analysis


  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid