Essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD) is a highly explored topic. The fatty acids n-3 and n-6 are necessary for proper neurological and biological development. These acids are not naturally occurring and must be supplemented through proper diet by eating foods high in fatty acids, including fish. Some research has suggested that EFAD during pregnancy could make children more vulnerable to mental and behavioral problems such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or decreased IQ. Overall, existing research supports the theory that EFAD during pregnancy can negatively impact development and even impair memory and learning in later life. In order to better understand how EFAD during gestation affects offspring, Vilborg Palsdottir of the Department of Physiology/Endocrinology at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden conducted a study examining the development of newborn female mice whose mothers had EFAD during pregnancy.
First, Palsdottir looked at how EFAD affected risky behavior, impulsivity, memory, learning, anxiety, and behavior in adulthood. The study also examined how fatty acid levels during weaning affected the overall brain composition of the mice after 3 weeks postnatal. The study revealed that EFAD and malnutrition during pregnancy resulted in decreased anxiety during adulthood. The brain composition of the mice was altered as a result of the EFAD, which could influence the way in which the mice responded to stress. Additionally, Palsdottir discovered that EFAD also increased risk-taking behaviors in the mice. The mice also exhibited lower levels of learning and memory capacity as a result of EFAD during gestation. “In conclusion, EFAD from ED16 to PND21 decreases the proportion of n-3 fatty acids and increases the proportion of n-6 fatty acids in the brain at the time of weaning.” Palsdottir added, “Thus, these data indicate that the late fetal stage and suckling period is a vulnerable time point for nutritional deficiencies leading to altered behavioral responses during adult life.”
Palsdottir, V., Månsson, J.-E., Blomqvist, M., Egecioglu, E., & Olsson, B. (2012). Long-Term Effects of Perinatal Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency on Anxiety-Related Behavior in Mice. Behavioral Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027161
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