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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;54(3):234-8.

Essential fatty acids in breast milk of atopic mothers: comparison with non-atopic mothers, and effect of borage oil supplementation.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate whether levels of n-6 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPs) in human breast milk are related to the mother's atopic constitution, and whether a decreased level can be restored by gamma-linolenic acid supplementation.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional study and dietary supplementation trial.

SUBJECTS:

20 atopic mothers and 20 non-atopic mothers (controls), all lactating.

SETTING:

General population.

INTERVENTIONS:

The atopic mothers were randomly assigned to low (n=10) or high (n=10) dosage oral supplementation with oral borage oil for one week (230 or 460 mg gamma-linolenic acid (18:3n-6) per day).

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Essential fatty acid composition of the breast milk total fat fraction, determined by gas liquid chromatography.

RESULTS:

Arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) was lower in breast milk of atopic mothers compared with non-atopic mothers (0.39 wt% vs 0.46 wt%, difference -0.07% wt% (95% confidence limits -0.13, -0.01 wt%; P<0. 05). The ratio between linoleic acid and the sum of n-6 derivatives did not differ between these groups, indicating no difference in delta-6-desaturase (D6D) activity. Supplementation of the atopic mothers significantly increased the levels of gamma-linolenic acid and dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid in breast milk in a dose-related way, but the level of arachidonic acid was not increased.

CONCLUSION:

We found a decreased level of arachidonic acid in breast milk in atopic compared to non-atopic mothers, but no indication that the rate-limiting enzymatic step (D6D) is involved. Supplementation increased the precursor pool but did not restore the level of arachidonic acid. We conclude that atopy is related to a metabolic disturbance beyond the D6D enzymatic step. A low level of arachidonic acid in breast milk may be a risk factor for the development of atopy in the infant, especially when the possible underlying metabolic disturbance of EFA metabolism is inherited by the child.

SPONSORSHIP:

F Hoffman-La Roche (Basel, Switzerland) and Friesland Dairy Foods (Leeuwarden, The Netherlands).

PMID:
10713746
DOI:
10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600926
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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