Maternal Iron Deficiency Alters Essential Fatty Acid And Eicosanoid Metabolism And Increases Locomot

Hugh Johnson

Mar 14, 2014
The Sultanate of Portugal


Iron deficiency (ID) is the most prevalent worldwide nutritional deficiency. Groups at risk of developing ID anemia are infants and pregnant women, even in industrialized countries. Our goal in this study was to evaluate the long-term consequences of maternal ID on the offspring's fatty acid and eicosanoid metabolism, behavior, and spatial memory. Female guinea pigs consumed iron-sufficient (IS) and –deficient (ID) diets for 14 d before mating and throughout pregnancy and lactation. Dietary iron restriction resulted in ID in pregnant females. On postnatal d 9, all offspring (ID and IS) were weaned to the IS diet and at 42 d, all offspring were iron replete. Locomotion was tested in pups on postnatal d 24 and 40 and spatial memory from d 25 to 40. Pups from the ID group were significantly more active in the open field at both times of testing, whereas spatial memory, tested in a Morris water maze, was comparable in both groups. On postnatal d 42, liver, RBC, and brain fatty acid composition were measured. Dihomogammalinolenic [20:3(n-6)], docosapentaenoic [22:5(n-3)], and docosahexaenoic [22:6(n-3)] acid contents were significantly higher in brain phospholipids of offspring born to ID dams. Prostaglandin E2 and F2α concentrations were also significantly higher in brains of offspring born to ID dams. This demonstrates that moderate ID during gestation and lactation results in alterations of brain fatty acid and eicosanoid metabolism and perturbation in behavior in adult offspring.

Some of the interesting things I found:

Brain fatty acid composition.

ID induced during pregnancy and lactation had a lasting impact on the fatty acid composition of the pups' brains (Supplemental Table 1). The concentration of total fatty acids did not differ between the IS and ID groups (data not shown). The content of total SFA in PI was lower in pups born to ID dams, mainly due to lower 18:0 content, whereas the 18:1(n-7) content was significantly lower in PE and PI of pups born to ID dams. Total proportions of PUFA in PE and PI were significantly higher in pups born to ID dams.

Studies in humans and rats indicated that infants suffering from early ID during the postnatal period were more wary and hesitant (44,45). This is consistent with a recent study in rhesus monkeys where less fearful and more impulsive behaviors were associated with prenatal iron deprivation and more tense and withdrawn behaviors were associated with postnatal iron deprivation (46).

In this study, moderate ID in dams during gestation and lactation resulted in changes in the fatty acid composition of the brain, liver, and RBC of the offspring. However, the most striking changes were in brain PUFA composition, where total (n-3) PUFA were significantly enriched by ∼20% in PC, PE, and PI in offspring born to ID dams. DHA content was largely responsible for this increase.


Apr 26, 2014
Re: Maternal Iron Deficiency Alters Essential Fatty Acid and Eicosanoid Metabolism and Increases Locomotion in Adult Gui

Thanks, Hugh. I wonder if this means pregnant women shouldn't supplement vitamin e too often, as it would deplete iron.
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