Omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy promotes brown fat formation in offspring.
A new study in mice showed that omega-3 fatty acid consumption during pregnancy and lactation promoted the formation of brown fat in offspring. Omega-3s also increased energy expenditure and cold resistance.
Researchers fed female mice either a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids or a diet devoid of omega-3s throughout their pregnancies and lactation. They measured their offspring’s brown fat and energy expenditure and assessed their capacity to maintain their core body temperature in cold temperatures.
They found that the mice whose mothers ate a diet rich in omega-3s had higher concentrations of brown fat than those whose mothers did not consume omega-3s. In addition, they had higher energy expenditure and were more efficient at maintaining their core body temperature in cold temperatures. Genetic analysis revealed that the increase in brown fat synthesis was mediated via epigenetic mechanisms. You can learn more about epigenetic mechanisms in our article here.
Brown fat, also known as brown adipose tissue, is found in all mammals and is particularly abundant in newborns. Unlike white fat, brown fat is metabolically active tissue that is rich in mitochondria. It helps maintain body temperature during cold exposure, during which its uptake of glucose is eightfold higher than that of muscle tissues, driving increases in energy expenditure.
Cold exposure increases brown fat activity in humans, possibly benefitting whole-body glucose utilization and insulin sensitivity. Learn more about the effects of cold exposure in our overview article.