Food and Behaviour Research

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Genetic variants of the FADS gene cluster and ELOVL gene family, colostrums LC-PUFA levels, breastfeeding, and child cognition

Morales E, Bustamante M, Gonzalez JR, Guxens M, Torrent M, Mendez M, Garcia-Esteban R, Julvez J, Forns J, Vrijheid M, Molto-Puigmarti C, Lopez-Sabater C, Estivill X, Sunyer J. (2011) PLoS One.  Feb 23;6(2): e17181. 

Web URL: View this and related abstracts via PubMed here. Free full text of this article is available online.


INTRODUCTION: Breastfeeding effects on cognition are attributed to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), but controversy persists. Genetic variation in fatty acid desaturase (FADS) and elongase (ELOVL) enzymes has been overlooked when studying the effects of LC-PUFAs supply on cognition. We aimed to: 1) to determine whether maternal genetic variants in the FADS cluster and ELOVL genes contribute to differences in LC-PUFA levels in colostrum; 2) to analyze whether these maternal variants are related to child cognition; and 3) to assess whether children's variants modify breastfeeding effects on cognition.

METHODS: Data come from two population-based birth cohorts (n?=?400 mother-child pairs from INMA-Sabadell; and n?=?340 children from INMA-Menorca). LC-PUFAs were measured in 270 colostrum samples from INMA-Sabadell. Tag SNPs were genotyped both in mothers and children (13 in the FADS cluster, 6 in ELOVL2, and 7 in ELOVL5). Child cognition was assessed at 14 mo and 4 y using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities, respectively.

RESULTS: Children of mothers carrying genetic variants associated with lower FADS1 activity (regulating AA and EPA synthesis), higher FADS2 activity (regulating DHA synthesis), and with higher EPA/AA and DHA/AA ratios in colostrum showed a significant advantage in cognition at 14 mo (3.5 to 5.3 points). Not being breastfed conferred an 8- to 9-point disadvantage in cognition among children GG homozygote for rs174468 (low FADS1 activity) but not among those with the A allele. Moreover, not being breastfed resulted in a disadvantage in cognition (5 to 8 points) among children CC homozygote for rs2397142 (low ELOVL5 activity), but not among those carrying the G allele.

CONCLUSION: Genetically determined maternal supplies of LC-PUFAs during pregnancy and lactation appear to be crucial for child cognition. Breastfeeding effects on cognition are modified by child genetic variation in fatty acid desaturase and elongase enzymes.