Higher long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP) in infant compared with maternal lipids at delivery is named biomagnification. The decline of infant and maternal docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) status during lactation in Western countries suggests maternal depletion. We investigated whether biomagnification persists at lifelong high fish intakes and whether the latter prevents a postpartum decline of infant and/or maternal DHA status.
We studied 3 Tanzanian tribes with low (Maasai: 0/week), intermediate (Pare: 2–3/week), and high (Sengerema: 4–5/week) fish intakes. DHA and arachidonic acid (AA) were determined in maternal (m) and infant (i) erythrocytes (RBC) during pregnancy (1st trimester n = 14, 2nd = 103, 3rd = 88), and in mother–infant pairs at delivery (n = 63) and at 3 months postpartum (n = 104).
At delivery, infants of all tribes had similar iRBC-AA which was higher than, and unrelated to, mRBC-AA. Transplacental DHA biomagnification occurred up to 5.6 g% mRBC-DHA; higher mRBC-DHA was associated with “bioattenuation” (i.e., iRBC-DHA < mRBC-DHA). Compared to delivery, mRBC-AA after 3 months was higher, while iRBC-AA was lower. mRBC-DHA after 3 months was lower, while iRBC-DHA was lower (low fish intake), equal (intermediate fish intake), and higher (high fish intake) compared to delivery. We estimated that postpartum iRBC-DHA equilibrium is reached at 5.9 g%, which corresponds to a mRBC-DHA of 6.1 g% throughout pregnancy.
Uniform high iRBC-AA at delivery might indicate the importance of intrauterine infant AA status. Biomagnification reflects low maternal DHA status, and bioattenuation may prevent intrauterine competition of DHA with AA. A mRBC-DHA of about 6 g% during pregnancy predicts maternal–fetal equilibrium at delivery, postnatal iRBC-DHA equilibrium, but is unable to prevent a postnatal mRBC-DHA decline.