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Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3):383-90.

trans Fatty acids in human milk are inversely associated with concentrations of essential all-cis n-6 and n-3 fatty acids and determine trans, but not n-6 and n-3, fatty acids in plasma lipids of breast-fed infants.

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  • 1Department of Paediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.



Human milk fatty acids vary with maternal dietary fat composition. Hydrogenated dietary oils with trans fatty acids may displace cis n-6 and n-3 unsaturated fatty acids or have adverse effects on their metabolism. The effects of milk trans, n-6, and n-3 fatty acids in breast-fed infants are unclear, although n-6 and n-3 fatty acids are important in infant growth and development.


We sought to determine the relations between trans and cis unsaturated fatty acids in milk and plasma phospholipids and triacylglycerols of breast-fed infants, and to identify the major maternal dietary sources of trans fatty acids.


We collected milk from 103 mothers with exclusively breast-fed 2-mo-old infants, blood from 62 infants, and 3-d dietary records from 21 mothers.


Mean (+/-SEM) percentages of trans fatty acids were as follows: milk, 7.1 +/- 0.32%; infants' triacylglycerols, 6.5 +/- 0. 33%; and infants' phospholipids, 3.7 +/- 0.16%. Milk trans fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3), arachidonic acid (20:4n-6), docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) (P < 0.001), and linoleic acid (18:2n-6) (P = 0.007) were each related to the same fatty acid in infant plasma phospholipids. Milk trans fatty acids were inversely related to milk 18:2n-6 and 18:3n-3, but not to milk or infant plasma 20:4n-6 or 22:6n-3. trans Fatty acids represented 7.7% of maternal total fat intake (2.5% of total energy); the major dietary sources were bakery products and breads (32%), snacks (14%), fast foods (11%), and margarines and shortenings (11%).


There were comparable concentrations of trans fatty acids in the maternal diet, breast milk, and plasma triacylglycerols of breast-fed infants. Prepared foods were the major dietary source of trans fatty acids.

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