November 28, 2017
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DHA supplementation reduces placental inflammation in women with obesity

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In pregnant women with obesity, docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, supplementation decreased placental inflammation and could mitigate the negative effects of obesity on placental function, according to researchers.

“As populations in developed countries have become progressively heavier, an increasing number of women are obese when they enter pregnancy,” Susanne Lager, research associate at the department of obstetrics and gynecology and the Centre for Trophoblast Research at the University of Cambridge, and colleagues wrote. “The consequences of pre-gravid obesity are not limited to pregnancy alone because children of high-BMI mothers are at increased risk for metabolic and cardiovascular disease, mental health disorders and some types of cancer. Ample evidence suggests that change in maternal nutrition/metabolism alter fetal development and growth mediated by modulation of placental function.”

The researchers assigned 38 pregnant women with pre-pregnancy BMI 30 kg/m2 or greater to supplementation with either 800 mg of daily DHA (n = 19) or placebo (n = 19). Lager and colleagues collected maternal fasting blood samples at baseline (26 weeks) and at 36 weeks and placentas at delivery.

Participants who received DHA supplementation had increased DHA levels in erythrocyte (P < .0001) and placental membrane samples (P < .0001), the researchers reported. Supplementation with DHA did not, however, influence the women’s maternal insulin sensitivity, inflammatory status or lipid levels.

Women who received DHA supplements had decreased placental inflammation compared with those who did not, Lager and colleagues reported, as well as decreased amino acid transport expression and activity (P < .01) and increased expression of fatty-acid transporting protein 4 in the placenta (P < .05).

“In conclusion, maternal DHA supplementation in pregnancies complicated by obesity did not modulate maternal circulatory markers of inflammation or insulin sensitivity,” the researchers wrote. “Maternal DHA supplementation increased placental membrane DHA levels, which was associated with modulation of placental nutrient-transport capacity and decreased placental inflammatory markers. Increasing placental DHA may be beneficial in obese pregnancies by attenuating excessive placental amino acid transport, which otherwise contributes to fetal overgrowth.” – by Andy Polhamus

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.