We investigated essential fatty acids (EFA) and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP) in maternal and fetal brain as a function of EFA/LCP availability to the feto-maternal unit in mice. Diets varying in parent EFA, arachidonic acid (AA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were administered from day 3 prior to conception till day 15 of pregnancy. We concentrated on DHA, AA, Mead acid, and EFA-index [(omega-3+omega-6)/(omega-7+omega-9)] in maternal erythrocytes, maternal brain, and fetal brain. It was found that erythrocyte EFA/LCP sensitively reflects declining EFA/LCP status in pregnancy, although this decline was not apparent in maternal brain.

Differences in erythrocyte EFA/LCP coincided with larger differences in fetal brain EFA/LCP as compared to EFA/LCP in maternal brain. Both maternal and fetal brains were affected by short-term EFA/LCP intake, but the developing fetal brain proved most sensitive.

The inverse relationship between fetal brain AA and DHA suggests the need of a maternal dietary DHA/AA balance, at least in mice.

Key words: omega ratio