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Arch Dis Child. 2000 Jun;82(6):493-4.

Breast milk docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) correlates with DHA status of malnourished infants.

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  • 1Departments of Obstetrics and Pediatrics, Perinatal Nutrition and Development Unit, Groningen University Hospital, Groningen, Netherlands.



To investigate whether low docosahexaenoic acid (22:6omega3; DHA) status of malnourished, mostly breast fed infants is a result of low omega3 fatty acid intake via breast milk.


Fatty acid composition of breast milk of eight Pakistani mothers, and of the erythrocytes of their malnourished children was analysed.


The milk of the Pakistani mothers contained low percentages of all omega3 and most omega6 fatty acids, compared with milk of Dutch mothers. Breast milk DHA was positively correlated with infant erythrocyte DHA and arachidonic acid (20:4omega6).


DHA status of these malnourished children is strongly dependent on the omega3 fatty acid intake from breast milk. Augmentation of the infants' omega3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status, or the omega3 and omega6 fatty acid status in general, by supplementation is indicated in deprived circumstances where access to fresh fish is difficult. However, in terms of prevention, maternal supplementation of these long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, preferably from early pregnancy onwards, may be a better option.

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