Early intake of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids preserves brain structure and function in diet-induced obesity

Ilse A.C. Arnoldussen, Valerio Zerbi, Maximilian Wiesmann, Rikko H.J. Noordman, Simone Bolijn, Martina P.C. Mutsaers, Pieter J.W.C. Dederen, Robert Kleemann, Teake Kooistra, Eric A.F. van Tol, Gabriele Gross, Marieke H. Schoemaker, Arend Heerrschap, Peter Y. Wielinga, Amanda J. Kiliaan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Worldwide, the incidence of obesity is increasing at an alarming rate, and the number of children with obesity is especially worrisome. These developments raise concerns about the physical, psychosocial and cognitive consequences of obesity. It was shown that early dietary intake of arachidonic acid (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can reduce the detrimental effects of later obesogenic feeding on lipid metabolism and adipogenesis in an animal model of mild obesity. In the present study, the effects of early dietary ARA and DHA on cognition and brain structure were examined in mildly obesogenic ApoE*3Leiden mouse model. We used cognitive tests and neuroimaging during early and later life. During their early development after weaning (4-13 weeks of age), mice were fed a chow diet or ARA and DHA diet for 8 weeks and then switched to a high-fat and high-carbohydrate (HFHC) diet for 12 weeks (14-26 weeks of age). An HFHC-diet led to increased energy storage in white adipose tissue, increased cholesterol levels, decreased triglycerides levels, increased cerebral blood flow and decreased functional connectivity between brain regions as well as cerebrovascular and gray matter integrity. ARA and DHA intake reduced the HFHC-diet-induced increase in body weight, attenuated plasma triglycerides levels and improved cerebrovasculature, gray matter integrity and functional connectivity in later life. In conclusion, an HFHC diet causes adverse structural brain and metabolic adaptations, most of which can be averted by dietary ARA and DHA intake early in life supporting metabolic flexibility and cerebral integrity later in life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-188
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain structure
  • High-fat and high-carbohydrate diets
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Neuroimaging
  • Obesity

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