Nutrients (Oct 2021)

Perinatal Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Status and Obesity Risk

  • Hans Demmelmair,
  • Berthold Koletzko

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 11
p. 3882


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High obesity rates in almost all regions of the world prompt an urgent need for effective obesity prevention. Very good scientific evidence from cell culture and rodent studies show that the availability of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and their long-chain polyunsaturated derivatives, namely, arachidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, influence adipogenesis; for this reason, early life status may influence later obesity risk. The respective PUFA effects could be mediated via their eicosanoid derivatives, their influence on cell membrane properties, the browning of white adipose tissue, changes to the offspring gut microbiome, their influence on developing regulatory circuits, and gene expression during critical periods. Randomized clinical trials and observational studies show divergent findings in humans, with mostly null findings but also the positive and negative effects of an increased n-3 to n-6 PUFA ratio on BMI and fat mass development. Hence, animal study findings cannot be directly extrapolated to humans. Even though the mechanistic data basis for the effects of n-3 PUFA on obesity risk appears promising, no recommendations for humans can be derived at present.