The dietary n6:n3 fatty acid ratio during pregnancy is inversely associated with child neurodevelopment in the EDEN mother-child cohort

J Nutr. 2013 Sep;143(9):1481-8. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.178640. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) of the n6 (ω6) and n3 series are essential for the development of a child's brain. Fetal LC-PUFA exposure as well as infant exposure via breast milk depend on the maternal intake of these LC-PUFAs and of their respective dietary precursors (PUFAs). We aimed to investigate the associations between maternal LC-PUFA and PUFA [(LC)PUFA] dietary intake during pregnancy and child neurodevelopment at ages 2 and 3 y. In 1335 mother-child pairs from the EDEN cohort, we evaluated associations between daily maternal (LC)PUFA intake during the last 3 months of pregnancy with the child's language at age 2 y and with different assessments of development at age 3 y. Associations were investigated separately in breastfed and never-breastfed children. We examined interactions between the ratios of n6 and n3 (LC)PUFA intakes (n6:n3 fatty acid ratio) and duration of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers had a lower n6:n3 fatty acid ratio (8.4 vs. 8.8; P = 0.02). Among never-breastfed children (n = 338), we found negative associations between maternal dietary n6:n3 fatty acid ratios and neurodevelopment, as reflected by the child's language at age 2 y (β ± SE = -2.1 ± 0.7; P = 0.001) and development assessed with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire at age 3 y (-1.5 ± 0.8; P = 0.05). Among mothers with a high n6:n3 fatty acid ratio only, breastfeeding duration was positively associated with language at age 2 y (P-interaction < 0.05). This suggests that the ratio between maternal dietary n6 and n3 (LC)PUFA intake possibly influences the child's brain development during fetal life but not during or by breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding might compensate for prenatal imbalance in maternal dietary n6:n3 fatty acid ratio.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6 / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Meat
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-6