Gestational age in relation to marine n-3 fatty acids in maternal erythrocytes: a study of women in the Faroe Islands and Denmark

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1991 May;164(5 Pt 1):1203-9. doi: 10.1016/0002-9378(91)90683-i.


Gestation is longer in Faroese than Danish women, possibly because of the high intake of marine long-chain n-3 fatty acids that down regulates formation of prostaglandins from arachidonic acid. Polyunsaturated fatty acids were quantified in erythrocytes obtained within 2 days of delivery from randomly selected groups of 62 Faroese and 37 Danish women with an assessable gestational age. Average ratio of long-chain n-3 fatty acids to arachidonic acid [(3/6) ratio] was 0.73 (SD = 0.11) in Faroese women and 0.61 (SD = 0.12) in Danish women (p less than 0.0001), corresponding to the higher intake of marine n-3 fatty acids in the Faroes. A 20% increase in the (3/6) ratio was associated with an increase in pregnancy duration of 5.7 days in Danish women (95% confidence interval, 1.4 to 10.1 days; p = 0.02) and 0.7 days in Faroese women (95% confidence interval, -2.0 to 3.3; p = 0.6). The hypothesized exposure-effect relationship may be weaker or absent at the higher level of exposure seen in the Faroese group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Arachidonic Acids / analysis
  • Denmark
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / analysis
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / analysis
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / biosynthesis*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / analysis
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid
  • docosapentaenoic acid