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UNLABELLED: In this large, population-based, prospective, mother-offspring cohort study, maternal long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA) status during pregnancy was found to be positively associated with bone mass in the offspring at age 4 years. The findings suggest that variation in intrauterine exposure to n-3 and n-6 LCPUFAs may have potential consequences for skeletal development. INTRODUCTION: Maternal diet in pregnancy has been linked to childhood bone mass, but the mechanisms and nutrients involved are uncertain. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) have been shown to affect bone metabolism, but the relationship between maternal fatty acid status and bone mass in the offspring remains unknown. METHODS: We evaluated the association between maternal LCPUFA status in late pregnancy (34 weeks gestation) and bone density in their children at age 4 years within 727 mother-child pairs taking part in the Southampton Women's Survey. RESULTS: Concentrations of the n-3 LCPUFA component of maternal plasma phosphatidylcholine were positively associated with a number of bone mineral measures at the age of 4 years; these associations persisted after adjustment for maternal body build, walking speed and infant feeding. Relationships were most evident for eicosapentaenoic acid (r = 0.09, p = 0.02 for whole body areal bone mineral density [aBMD] and r = 0.1, p = 0.008 for lumbar spine aBMD) and for docosapentaenoic acid (r = 0.09, p = 0.02 for whole body aBMD and r = 0.12, p = 0.002 for lumbar spine aBMD). CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that variation in early exposure to n-3 and n-6 LCPUFA may have potential consequences for bone development and that the effects appear to persist into early childhood.

Original publication




Journal article


Osteoporos int

Publication Date





2359 - 2367


Absorptiometry, Photon, Adult, Bone Density, Bone Development, Calcification, Physiologic, Child, Preschool, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, Fatty Acids, Omega-3, Fatty Acids, Omega-6, Fatty Acids, Unsaturated, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Lumbar Vertebrae, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Trimester, Third, Prospective Studies, Whole Body Imaging, Young Adult