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Lipids. 2006 Sep;41(9):851-8.

Human milk fatty acid composition from nine countries varies most in DHA.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition Research, Wyeth Nutrition, 500 Arcola Road, Collegeville, Pennsylvania 19426, USA.


Many published studies of breast milk FA composition are limited to populations from one or two countries. We aimed to examine the degree to which FA compositions vary across a number of diverse populations. Because diet and maternal adipose stores influence breast milk FA composition, differences in FA composition between groups most likely reflect habitual dietary differences. Approximately 50 breast milk samples (full breast expression) were collected from women in Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The proportion of saturated FA was relatively constant among countries, with the exception of the Philippines, where levels of lauric and myristic acids were elevated (means greater than two times the mean of most other countries). Monounsaturated FA also varied little, with the exception of low levels of oleic acid in the Philippines and high levels of erucic acid in China. Although arachidonic acid (C20:4n-6) levels were similar among all countries (means ranging from 0.36 wt % to 0.49 wt %), mean DHA (C22:6n-3) levels ranged from 0.17 to 0.99 wt %, with the highest levels in Japanese milk and the lowest levels in Canadian and U.S. samples. The results of this study demonstrate that the proportion of saturated and monounsaturated FA are relatively constant across a large number of countries, whereas the level of some of the PUFA, especially DHA, are highly variable.

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