Assessing Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy and Lactation to Optimize Maternal Mental Health and Childhood Cognitive Development

Chelsea M Klemens; Kataneh Salari; Ellen L Mozurkewich


Clin Lipidology. 2012;7(1):93-109. 

In This Article

Mode of Placental Transport of Fatty Acids

The fetus is able to convert ALA to DHA, but this ability decreases with advancing gestational age.[68] Therefore the fetus is largely dependent on the mother to transfer preformed DHA across the placenta.[68] There are several factors influencing fatty acid transport across the placenta; these include maternal fatty acid status, placental function, as well as fatty acid transport proteins (FATP) and fatty acid binding proteins (FABP).[68] Fatty acids from the maternal circulation pass across placenta cell membranes via passive diffusion as well as by active transport through a combination of binding proteins. These are termed plasma membrane fatty acid binding protein (FABPpm/GOT2), FABPs and FATPs, and fatty acid translocase (FAT/CD36).[69] In a secondary analysis of data from a double-blind randomized DHA supplementation trial, Larque et al. demonstrated that FATP-1 and FATP-4 are most important for the transplacental transport of DHA to the fetal compartment.[70]

Long-chain PUFA transport across the placenta is important because the fetus is able to elongate and desaturate the essential fatty acids ALA and LA to DHA and ARA, respectively, only to a limited degree.[69] Interestingly, infants born preterm are able to convert EFA to long-chain PUFAs to a greater degree than infants born at term, although fetal capacity to synthesize ARA exceeds fetal ability to synthesize DHA.[2] Thus, transport of the long-chain PUFAs is necessary to meet the needs of the developing brain and CNS.[69]


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