Why Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Required in Early Life

essential fatty acids

Long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, LCPUFA, is defined as the fatty acid holding >18carbon atoms and more ethylene bonds in cis-form, such as arachidonic acid (AA, omega 3 fatty acids), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, omega 3 fatty acids), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, omega 3 fatty acids), etc. It is the membrane component of all kinds of cells and plays some physiological function.

LCPUFA is gotten form elongation and desaturation of less long polyunsaturated fatty acid in body and by eating. Human body can form double bond in n-9 site of fatty acid, but cannot in omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 fatty acids site, so the omega 6 fatty acids and omega 3 unsaturated fatty acids must be gained from food, but not always from LCPUFA ones. The omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids  LCPUFA can be synthesized in body using linoleic acid and c -linolenic acid called essential fatty acids.

Fetus develops the enzyme system to synthesize LCPUFA very slowly. For fetal development, LCPUFA source is from its mother mostly. There is a particular mechanism in transportation of LCPUFA in placenta. Maternal deficiency of LCPUFA is the one cause of worse development of fetus. In premature, in 0 to 3 or 4 weeks after birth, the enzyme system in elongation and desaturation of fatty acid is not fully developed, hence, breastfeeding favors to reinforce LCPUFA and fortification of LCPUFA in infant formula is supported. The requirement of LCPUFA for fetus, infants and children is waiting for detailed description. And it is emphasized that the balanced omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids intake, the balance, between all kinds of fatty acids and the reasonable proportion of fat in total energy source are the basic principle in nutrition.


Mike Maunu – Founder