Oxidized fish oil in rat pregnancy causes high newborn mortality and increases maternal insulin resistance

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2016 Sep 1;311(3):R497-504. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00005.2016. Epub 2016 Jul 6.


Fish oil is commonly taken by pregnant women, and supplements sold at retail are often oxidized. Using a rat model, we aimed to assess the effects of supplementation with oxidized fish oil during pregnancy in mothers and offspring, focusing on newborn viability and maternal insulin sensitivity. Female rats were allocated to a control or high-fat diet and then mated. These rats were subsequently randomized to receive a daily gavage treatment of 1 ml of unoxidized fish oil, a highly oxidized fish oil, or control (water) throughout pregnancy. At birth, the gavage treatment was stopped, but the same maternal diets were fed ad libitum throughout lactation. Supplementation with oxidized fish oil during pregnancy had a marked adverse effect on newborn survival at day 2, leading to much greater odds of mortality than in the control (odds ratio 8.26) and unoxidized fish oil (odds ratio 13.70) groups. In addition, maternal intake of oxidized fish oil during pregnancy led to increased insulin resistance at the time of weaning (3 wks after exposure) compared with control dams (HOMA-IR 2.64 vs. 1.42; P = 0.044). These data show that the consumption of oxidized fish oil is harmful in rat pregnancy, with deleterious effects in both mothers and offspring.

Keywords: dams; lipid peroxides; lipids; n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids; omega-3; pups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fish Oils / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology*
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Fish Oils