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Associations of whole blood polyunsaturated fatty acids and insulin resistance among European children and adolescents

Journal article
Authors S. Marth
C. Börnhorst
Kirsten Mehlig
P. Russo
L. A. Moreno
S. De Henauw
T. Veidebaum
D. Molnár
M. Tornaritis
P. Risé
M. Wolters
Idefics on behalf of the
I. Family consortia I. Family consortia
Published in European Journal of Pediatrics
ISSN 0340-6199
Publication year 2020
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Language en
Keywords Children, HOMA, Insulin resistance, n-3 fatty acids, n-6 fatty acids, Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Subject categories Pediatrics


This study aims to examine the association of whole blood n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) with insulin resistance (IR) in children. Whole blood fatty acids were measured in 705 children aged 2–9 years of the European IDEFICS/I.Family cohort using gas chromatography in units of weight percentage of all detected fatty acids (%wt/wt). IR was determined by the Homeostasis Model Assessment for IR (HOMA). Mixed effect models were used to assess the associations between selected baseline PUFA and HOMA z-scores at baseline and after 2- and 6-year follow-ups using models with basic and additional confounder adjustment as well as stratified by sex and weight status. In the basic model, α-linolenic (β = 1.46 SD/%wt/wt, p = 0.006) and eicosapentaenoic acid (β = 1.17 SD/%wt/wt, p = 0.001) were positively associated with baseline HOMA z-score. In the stratified analyses, α-linolenic acid was positively associated with HOMA z-score in girls only (β = 1.98 SD/%wt/wt, p = 0.006) and arachidonic acid was inversely associated with baseline HOMA in thin/normal-weight children (β = − 0.13 SD/%wt/wt, p = 0.0063). In the fully adjusted model, no statistically significant associations were seen. Conclusions: Our overall results do not indicate a protective role of higher blood n-3 PUFA or an adverse role of higher blood arachidonic acid proportion on the risk of IR.What is Known:•Intervention studies reported a beneficial effect of n-3 PUFA supplementation on insulin resistance compared with placebo while observational studies in cildren are inconclusive.•Studies have shown a positive association of n-6 arachidonic acid and insulin resistance indicating an adverse role of arachidonic acid.What is New:•Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses based on circulating blood fatty acid concentrations in a large cohort of European children and adolescents.•Overall results do not support a protective role of n-3 PUFA or an adverse role of arachidonic acid in insulin resistance. © 2020, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

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