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Ethnic differences in early pregnancy maternal n-3 and n-6 fatty acid concentrations: an explorative analysis

  • Manon van Eijsden (a1) (a2), Gerard Hornstra (a3), Marcel F. van der Wal (a1) and Gouke J. Bonsel (a4)

Ethnicity-related differences in maternal n-3 and n-6 fatty acid status may be relevant to ethnic disparities in birth outcomes observed worldwide. The present study explored differences in early pregnancy n-3 and n-6 fatty acid composition of maternal plasma phospholipids between Dutch and ethnic minority pregnant women in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with a focus on the major functional fatty acids EPA (20 : 5n-3), DHA (22 : 6n-3), dihomo-γ-linolenic acid (DGLA; 20 : 3n-6) and arachidonic acid (AA; 20 : 4n-6). Data were derived from the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) cohort (inclusion January 2003 to March 2004). Compared with Dutch women (n 2443), Surinamese (n 286), Antillean (n 63), Turkish (n 167) and Moroccan (n 241) women had generally lower proportions of n-3 fatty acids (expressed as percentage of total fatty acids) but higher proportions of n-6 fatty acids (general linear model; P < 0·001). Ghanaian women (n 54) had higher proportions of EPA and DHA, but generally lower proportions of n-6 fatty acids (P < 0·001). Differences were most pronounced in Turkish and Ghanaian women, who, by means of a simple questionnaire, reported the lowest and highest fish consumption respectively. Adjustment for fish intake, however, hardly attenuated the differences in relative EPA, DHA, DGLA and AA concentrations between the various ethnic groups. Given the limitations of this observational study, further research into the ethnicity-related differences in maternal n-3 and n-6 fatty acid patterns is warranted, particularly to elucidate the explanatory role of fatty acid intake v. metabolic differences.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Dr Manon van Eijsden, fax +31 20 5555160, email
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