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Keywords:

  • Adipose tissue development;
  • gestation;
  • lactation;
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids

Summary

The importance of dietary fat in human obesity remains a controversial issue as the prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased despite no dramatic change in the amount of ingested fats over the past few decades. However, qualitative changes (i.e. the fatty acid composition of fats) have been largely disregarded. In this review, we summarize experimental evidence which supports polyunsaturated fatty acids of the ω6 series as being potent promoters of both adipogenesis in vitro and adipose tissue development in vivo during the gestation/lactation period. This conclusion is also supported by epidemiological data from infant studies as well as by the assessment of the fatty acid composition of mature breast milk and formula milk. It is proposed that unnoticed changes in fatty acid composition of ingested fats over the last decades have been important determinants in the increasing prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity.