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Influence of dietary fatty acids on the pathophysiology
of intrauterine foetal growth and neonatal development

Contract number : QLK1-2001-00138
Contract type : Shared Cost Project
Total cost : € 1.705.854
EC contribution : € 1.705.854
Starting date : 1/04/2002
Duration : 36 Months
Scientific Officer : Alkmini Katsada
Project website : not yet available
Dr Peter Dodds
Imperial College at Wye
Department of Agricultural Sciences
Wye, Ashford, Kent
TN25 5AH
United Kingdom
Tel.: +44 20 75942869
Fax: +44 20 75942640
E-mail: p.dodds @

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.
(expected) Results and achievements
  • 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.


Universidad San Pablo-Ceu
Departamento de Ciencias Biomedicas I
Ctra. Boadilla del Monte Km. 5,300
28668 Boadilla del Monte, Madrid
Università degli Studi di Milano
Dipartimento di Medicina, Chirurgia ed Odontoiatria
Clinica Ostetrica e Ginecologica
Via A. di Rudini 8
20142 Milano
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Division of Metabolic Diseases and Nutrition
Lindwurmstraße 4
80337 München
Geburtshilflich-Gynäkologische Universitätsklinik
Auenbruggerplatz 14
8036 Graz
Hopital Debrousse
Service de Neonatologie
29 Rue Soeur Bouvier
69322 Lyon Cedex 05

Fifth Framework Programme

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