This study provides evidence of 'nutritional programming' effects - whereby nutritional deficiencies in the mother during pregnancy can affect the health and development of the offspring throughout their lifetimes. Furthermore, these results confirm that some of these effects can be magnifed in successive generations.
Obviously, controlled studies like this cannot be carried out in humans for ethical and practical reasons, but nutritional programming effects in humans have been demonstrated, and they operate via similar principles.
Dietary omega-3 deficiencies are widespread in the US, UK and other developed countries. These findings add further weight to the existing evidence that these omega-3 deficiences may be contributing to the increased rates of behavioural, cognitive and mental health problems observed across successive generations.
The negative effects of poor omega-3 intake could become incrementally worse through consecutive generations, accordig to a new study.
The team of US researchers used rats to model how second-generation deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids affected long-term health, mood and cognitive functions - finding that deficiencies in these essential fatty acids over consecutive generations can lead to cognitive and behavioural problems.
Writing in Biological Psychiatry, the team revealed that a lack of omega-3 led to elevated states of anxiety and hyperactivity in second generation adolescents and affected their memory and cognition.
"We found that this dietary deficiency can compromise the behavioural health of adolescents, not only because their diet is deficient, but because their parents' diet was deficient as well" said Professor Bita Moghaddam of the University of Pittsburgh - lead author of the paper.
"This is of particular concern because adolescence is a very vulnerable time for developing psychiatric disorders invluding schizophrenia and addiction"
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