RESEARCH – August 2003

Polyansaturated fatty acids in the breast milk of mothers of term and preterm newborns


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The supply of polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCP) in human milk is of great importance for development of the infant. The supply may be influenced by the mother‘s diet.
The objective of the study was to detect the composition of fatty acids in the colostrum and mature milk after term and preterm delivery. Milk samples were obtained at day 3-4 after term delivery (n = 15) and at day 14 after preterm (n = 20) and term delivery (n = 92). A total of 97 mothers were questioned about different foods used during one month before the breast milk sample was collected. The composition of fatty acids was analysed by high resolution gas liquid chromatography. SAS system was used for statistical analysis, the differences were evaluated by Student‘s ttest and Mann-Whitney U-test.
No significant differences were detected in the content of total n-6 and n-3 LCP in breast milk after term and premature delivery. Significant differences occurred between colostrum and mature milk. Alphalinolenic acid was higher in breast milk (1.44±0.09 and 0.93±0.04%, respectively; p<0,0001). Arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were significantly higher in colostrum milk (AA 0.72±0.04 and 50.5±0.02, respectively; p<0.0001; DHA 0.81±0.06 and 0.63±0.02, respectively; p<0.0001). The n-6/n-3 LCP proved to be similar in both milks.
Most mothers reporting consumption of fatty fish and n-fatty acid supplemented eggs showed higher LCPUFA content and better n-6/n-3 LCPUFA in breast milk.