Factors associated with plasma n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in Tanzanian infants

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



European Journal of Clinical Nutrition








© 2019, Springer Nature Limited. Background/Objectives: To identify factors associated with plasma polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels among 3-month-old Tanzanian infants. Subjects/Methods: Infants (n = 238) and mothers (n = 193) randomly selected from participants in the neonatal vitamin A supplementation randomized controlled trial. A cross-sectional study of maternal–infant pairs at 3 months postpartum. Results: All infant total, n-3, n-6, and individual PUFA levels were correlated with maternal levels. Infant plasma n-3 PUFA levels were higher when maternal n-3 PUFA levels were higher (mean difference in infant % fatty acid per unit increase in maternal levels ± standard error: 0.79 ± 0.08; P < 0.01). Infant plasma docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels were positively associated with maternal DHA levels (0.77 ± 0.09; P < 0.01) but were lower for twin births (−0.55 ± 0.27; P = 0.03). Greater birth weight in kilograms (1.00 ± 0.43; P = 0.02) and higher maternal n-6 PUFA levels (0.20 ± 0.07; P < 0.01) were positively associated with higher infant n-6 PUFA levels, whereas maternal mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) levels (−0.26 ± 0.08; P < 0.01), maternal mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) (−0.22 ± 0.11; P = 0.04), and male sex (−0.99 ± 0.45; P = 0.03) were associated with lower infant plasma n-6 PUFA levels. Infant plasma arachidonic acid (AA) levels were positively associated with maternal plasma AA levels (0.38 ± 0.09; P < 0.01), but inversely associated with twin births (−1.37 ± 0.67; P = 0.04). Conclusions: Greater birth weight and higher maternal plasma PUFA levels at 3 months postpartum were significantly associated with higher infant plasma PUFA levels at 3 months age. Twin births, male sex, and higher maternal MUFA levels were associated with lower infant plasma PUFA levels. Nutrition counseling for optimal intake of PUFA-rich foods, to lactating mothers in resource-limited settings may be beneficial for improved infant health.