1. Maternal and umbilical cord plasma samples were collected from forty-seven Asian women, twenty-eight lifelong vegetarians and seventeen non-vegetarians, during delivery of their babies. The concentrations and fatty acid profiles of the plasma free fatty acid and triacylglycerol fractions were determined.
2. There were no significant differences between the levels of free fatty acid and triacylglycerol in either maternal or cord plasma from vegetarian compared with non-vegetarian Asian women. The fatty acid profiles of the lipid fractions in the two groups were similar. Total plasma free fatty acid levels in the maternal circulation correlated with umbilical cord levels.
3. The levels of linoleic acid in the maternal plasma free fatty acid fraction of the Asian women were much higher than previous reports on mixed populations of European women. In the Asian women arachidonic acid concentrations in both maternal and umbilical circulations were over four times higher than those reported for women unselected for race and diet.