Abnormal neurological responses in young adult offspring caused by excess omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) consumption by the mother during pregnancy and lactation
Received 25 January 2008;
revised 14 July 2008;
accepted 7 September 2008.
Available online 16 September 2008.
AbstractConsuming omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FA) during pregnancy and lactation benefits fetal and infant brain development and might reduce the severity of preterm births by prolonging pregnancy. However, diets that are relatively rich in ω-3 FA can adversely affect fetal and infant development and the auditory brainstem response (ABR), a measure of brain development and sensory function.
We previously examined the offspring of female rats fed excessive, adequate or deficient amounts of ω-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation.
The 24-day-old offspring in the Excess group, compared to the Control group, had postnatal growth retardation and poor hearing acuity and prolonged neural transmission times as evidenced by the ABR.
The Deficient group was intermediate.
The current study followed these offspring to see if these poor outcomes persisted into young adulthood. Based on prior findings, we hypothesized that the Excess and Deficient offspring would “catch-up” to the Control offspring by young adulthood.
Female Wistar rats received one of the three diet conditions from day 1 of pregnancy through lactation.
The three diets were the Control ω-3 FA condition (ω-3/ω-6 ratio ~ 0.14), the Excess ω-3 FA condition (ω-3/ω-6 ratio ~ 14.0) and Deficient ω-3 FA condition (ω-3/ω-6 ratio ~ 0% ratio).
The Control diet contained 7% soybean oil; whereas the Deficient and Excess ω-3 FA diets contained 7% safflower oil and 7% fish oil, respectively. One male and female offspring per litter were ABR-tested as young adults using tone pip stimuli of 2, 4, 8 and 16 kHz.
The postnatal growth retardation and prolonged neural transmission times in the Excess and Deficient pups had dissipated by young adulthood.
In contrast, the Excess group had elevated ABR thresholds (hearing loss) at all tone pip frequencies in comparison to the Control and Deficient groups.
The Deficient group had worse ABR thresholds than the Control group in response to the 8 kHz tone pips only.
The Excess group also had ABR amplitude–intensity profiles suggestive of hyperacusis.
These results are consistent with the Barker hypothesis concerning the fetal and neonatal origins of adult diseases.
Thus, consuming diets that are excessively rich or deficient in ω-3 FA during pregnancy and lactation seems inadvisable because of risks for long-lasting adverse effects on brain development and sensory function.
Keywords: Auditory brainstem response (ABR); Barker hypothesis; Docosahexanoic acid (DHA); Eicosapentanoic acid (EPA); Fetal programming; Fish oil; Hearing loss; Hyperacusis; Lactation; Omega-3 fatty acids (ω-3 FA); Omega-6 fatty acids (ω-6 FA); Over-nutrition; Postnatal; Pregnancy; Prenatal
Corresponding author. C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development, 275 East Hancock, Detroit, MI 48201, USA. Tel.: +1 313 577 1184; fax: +1 313 577 1278.