Maternal omega-3 intake as a measure to prevent child’s metabolic disturbances


Relation between the gut microbiota (formerly known as gut flora) and human health is being increasingly recognized. The term microbiota refers to the entire population of microorganisms that colonizes a location (in this case, the gut) and includes bacteria and other microbes. Generally, microorganisms are viewed as pathogens (as causing diseases) by the immune system, that recognizes and eliminates them; however, majority of the gut bacteria are not pathogens and habit in our body in a symbiotic relationship, this is why they are called commensals. The gut microbiota has specific functions in nutrient and drug metabolism, prevention of colonization of pathogenic microorganisms and in intestinal barrier function; and the immune system has evolved to collaborate with microbiota, while fighting against invasive “bad” microorganisms.

The composition and function of the gut microbiota is strongly influenced by environmental factors such as diet, mode of delivery at birth (vaginal or caesarean) and the use of antibiotics; and environmental disturbance of gut microbiota composition and function can be a cause of metabolic dysfunction.

The early-life gut microbiota plays a key role in host metabolism in later life, and it is known that maternal microbiota is related with that of the infant; maternal fatty acid intake during gestation and lactation influences the development of the child’s gut microbiota (and subsequent metabolic health). So, optimization of maternal diet and microbiota composition may enhance infant microbiota development.

In this respect, experimental studies have shown that maternal omega-3 fatty acids status during gestation and lactation have a long-lasting positive effect on offspring microbiota composition and function that persists into adulthood. Moreover, it has been observed that omega-3 fatty acids status in milk during lactation seems to have a stronger impact on the infant microbiota than maternal fatty acid status during gestation. This means that the consequences in offspring microbiota of maternal prenatal omega-3 fatty acids insufficiency can be compensated by maternal postnatal omega-3 fatty acids intake.

Excessive omega-6 fatty acids and insufficient omega-3 fatty acids in the Western diet, and the disproportion between them, have contributed to the current epidemic of chronic metabolic disorders, which may be partially attributed to persistent gut microbiota dysfunction. Consequently, maternal omega-3 fatty acids intake, especially during lactation, could be an effective measure to prevent child’s metabolic disorders.


Robertson RC, Kaliannan K, Strain CR, Ross RP, Stanton C, Kang JX. Maternal omega-3 fatty acids regulate offspring obesity through persistent modulation of gut microbiota. Microbiome. 2018;6(1):95.

Jandhyala SM, Talukdar R, Subramanyam C, Vuyyuru H, Sasikala M, Reddy DN. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21(29): 8787-803.