Reduced brain DHA content after a single reproductive cycle in female rats fed a diet deficient in N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Biol Psychiatry. 2006 Nov 1;60(9):987-90. Epub 2006 Feb 24. PMID: 16499882
BACKGROUND: Low levels of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n3), are implicated in postpartum depression. METHODS: The effects of pregnancy and lactation on brain phospholipid fatty acid content were determined in female rats fed diets containing sufficient (control) or negligible (deficient) alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3), the dietary precursor of DHA, beginning at conception. Female virgins, fed the diets for 6 weeks, served as control animals. Whole brain total phospholipid composition was determined at weaning by GC. RESULTS: Brain DHA content of postpartum dams fed the deficient diet was decreased by 21% compared with age-matched virgin control animals, with a reciprocal increase in docosapentaenoic acid (22:5n6) to 243%. CONCLUSIONS: Under dietary conditions supplying inadequate n-3 PUFAs, maternal brain DHA content can be reduced after a single reproductive cycle. This depletion may affect neuronal function and thus the sensitivity of the postpartum organism to stress.