Perinatal nutrition is known to affect the health and development of the newborn child. A foetus that suffers intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) is more likely to suffer from cardiac or diabetic problems in later life, an effect known as "metabolic programming". Particular fatty acids are required for development but the optimum composition of dietary lipids remains controversial. The project will compare normal and IUGR pregnancies in terms of maternal, neonatal and placental fatty acid profiles. Placental transfer of fatty acids in vivo and the functional ability of trophoblasts in vitro will be measured. The effects of dietary fats, on maternal endocrine status, oxidative stress, milk composition, placental function and on the development of IUGR and normal foetuses in utero (or ex utero in the case of the preterm infants fed intravenously) will be assessed. Studies in humans will be complemented with appropriate rat and pig animal-models. The results will be used to formulate improved dietary recommendations for mothers throughout pregnancy and lactation.
The overall objective of PERILIP is to define the role of fatty acids in foetal growth and neonatal development, with particular reference to intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR). The ultimate goal is to improve dietary guidelines for human pregnancies. Specific objectives are:
- To determine the fatty acid profiles of foetuses with different patterns of intrauterine growth.
- To determine those factors which can influence the availability of specific fatty acids to the foetus and to the neonate (e.g. diet, the composition of maternal adipose tissue, maternal endocrine status, placental function and milk composition).
- To identify the consequences, for placental function, foetal growth, neonatal development and perinatal oxidative characteristics, of manipulating the dietary fatty acid composition.
- The production of specific dietary recommendations for pregnant and lactating women.
- The differences in fatty acid status of foetus, placenta and mother in IUGR and normal pregnancies
- The roles of diet, maternal fat stores, hormonal status and placental function in providing fatty acids to the foetus, and to the neonate via lactation
- The ways in which manipulation of diet can affect development, milk composition, placental function, hormonal status and oxidative stress.
- Dietary recommendations for maternal nutrition at different stages of pregnancy and lactation.