A study led by Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) suggests that the risk of a child developing symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be modulated by the mother's diet during pregnancy. The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, analysed samples of umbilical cord plasma to quantify the levels of omega-6 and omega-3 that reach the foetus. The statistical analysis showed a higher omega-6:omega-3 ratio to be associated with a higher risk of ADHD symptoms at seven years of age.
Omega-6 and omega-3 are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that play a crucial role in the function and architecture of the central nervous system, particularly during the later stages of gestation. These two fatty acids compete for incorporation into cell membranes and are primarily obtained through diet. Since omega-6 and omega-3 have opposing physiological functions - the former promotes systemic pro-inflammatory states, while the latter promotes anti-inflammatory states - a balanced intake of these two fatty acids is important.