Several studies have investigated the effects of fish oil (FO) on infant growth, but little is known about the effects of FO and sex on insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), the main regulator of growth in childhood. We explored whether FO v. sunflower oil (SO) supplementation from 9 to 18 months of age affected IGF-1 and its binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) and whether the potential effects were sex specific. Danish infants (n 115) were randomly allocated to 5 ml/d FO (1·2 g/d n-3 long-chain PUFA (n-3 LCPUFA)) or SO. We measured growth, IGF-1, IGFBP-3 and erythrocyte EPA, a biomarker of n-3 LCPUFA intake and status, at 9 and 18 months. Erythrocyte EPA increased strongly with FO compared with SO (P<0·001). There were no effects of FO compared with SO on IGF-1 in the total population, but a sex×group interaction (P=0·02). Baseline-adjusted IGF-1 at 18 months was 11·1 µg/l (95 % CI 0·4, 21·8;P=0·04) higher after FO compared with SO supplementation among boys only. The sex×group interaction was borderline significant in the model of IGFBP-3 (P=0·09), with lower IGFBP-3 with FO compared with SO among girls only (P=0·03). The results were supported by sex-specific dose–response associations between changes in erythrocyte EPA and changes in IGF-1 and IGFBP-3 (both P<0·03). Moreover, IGF-1 was sex specifically associated with BMI and length. In conclusion, FO compared with SO resulted in higher IGF-1 among boys and lower IGFBP-3 among girls. The potential long-term implications for growth and body composition should be investigated further.
- Sex differences