Maternal plasma omega-3, gestation and blood pressure in childhood
Hypertension is normally thought to affect adults only, but this is not the case. Although more frequent among them, it also occurs in childhood (even in newborns just a few months old, due to premature birth or vascular, heart, lung or kidney problems) and its prevalence is rising, possibly due to the increase in childhood obesity. However, a cause (vascular, renal or hormonal) cannot always be found for paediatric hypertension, in which case it is considered primary or essential.
In children, hypertension is defined as blood pressure higher than the 95th percentile for their age, height and sex (i.e, 95% of children their age, height and sex have lower blood pressure than theirs). See reference tables (NIH. A Pocket Guide to Blood Pressure Measurement in Children, 2007.).
As in adults, high blood pressure in children can cause long-term damage to the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.
With the hypothesis that inadequate maternal diet during pregnancy could lead to foetal cardiovascular adaptations with persistent consequences to the child, a team of investigators from the University Medical Centre of Rotterdam studied the relationship between maternal plasma polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) during gestation and the blood pressure of their children. To do this, the following data were gathered from 4,455 women and their children: omega-3 and omega-6 PUFA in plasma levels in the second trimester of pregnancy (expressed as proportions of total PUFA) and blood pressure in the children measured at an average age of 6 years (95% interval: 5.7÷7.9 years).
High maternal omega-3 PUFA and low omega-6 PUFA values (dependent directly on the mother's diet) during gestation are associated with lower systolic blood pressure in childhood.
- Vidakovic AJ, Gishti O, Steenweg-de Graaff J et al.Higher Maternal Plasma n-3 PUFA and Lower n-6 PUFA Concentrations in Pregnancy Are Associated with Lower Childhood Systolic Blood Pressure. J Nutr. 2015 Aug 5. pii: jn210823. [Epub ahead of print]
- NIH.A Pocket Guide to Blood Pressure Measurement in Children. 2007.
- The Nemours Foundation.KidsHealth. High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). 2014.