Plausible mechanisms for effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on growth.

January 1, 2003 Human Health and Nutrition Data 0 Comments

Plausible mechanisms for effects of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on growth.

Year: 2003
Authors: A Lapillonne, S D Clarke, W C Herd.
Publication Name: J. Pediatr.
Publication Details: Volume 143; S9 – S16.


This review article describes the role of LCPUFAs in growth and development. It has been documented in some studies that infant formulas supplemented with long-chain n3 LCPUFA result in adverse effects on growth. Of the more than 30 randomized studies that investigated this area, only six demonstrated lower weight, length, and/or head circumference of infants on LCPUFA enriched formula when compared to a infants fed a control formula. Two additional studies demonstrated that infants fed formula with a high content of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) weighed less than infants fed control formula containing significantly lower levels of ALA. In reviewing the literature, the authors note that few of the studies conducted to date, regardless of findings, were specifically designed to study growth. As such, this paper reviews plausible reasons whereby supplementation with LCPUFA might affect growth in infants. Included are 1) differences in nutrient intake, absorption, and/or utilization; 2) low plasma and tissue contents of arachidonic acid (AA); 3) imbalance between n6 and n3 LCPUFA eicosanoid precursors, with a resulting imbalance in eicosanoid production; 4) altered membrane characteristics; and 5) effects on gene expression. In reviewing the data, the authors conclude that although all of these proposed mechanisms are feasible, none can be specifically implicated. Furthermore, the observed effect of LCPUFA on growth, regardless of the mechanism, does not appear to be biologically significant. Further research is necessary.

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