Objective: Long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) exert potent anti-inflammatory properties in humans. This study characterized the effects of omega-3 ω-3 fatty acids supplements (ω-3 FA) on the inflammatory status in the placenta and adipose tissue of overweight/obese pregnant women.
Study design: A randomized, double-masked controlled trial was conducted in overweight/obese pregnant women that were randomly assigned to receive DHA plus EPA (2 g/day) or the equivalent of a placebo twice a day from week 10-16 to term. Inflammatory pathways were characterized in: 1) adipose tissue and placenta of treated vs. untreated women; and 2) adipose and trophoblast cells cultured with long chain FAs.
Results: The sum of plasma DHA and EPA increased by 5.8 fold and ω-3 FA/ω-6 FA ratio was 1.5 in treated vs. untreated women (p< 0.005). Plasma CRP concentrations were reduced (p<0.001). The adipose tissue and placenta of treated women exhibited a significant decrease in TLR4 adipose and placental expression as well as IL6, IL8, and TNFα In vitro, EPA and DHA suppressed the activation of TLR4, IL6, IL8 induced by palmitate in culture of adipose and trophoblast cells.
Conclusion: Supplementation of overweight/obese pregnant women with dietary ω-3 FAs for >25 weeks reduced inflammation in maternal adipose and the placental tissue. TLR4 appears as a central target of the anti-inflammatory effects at the cellular level.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00957476.