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Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Oct;76(4):834-44.

Maternal and infant essential fatty acid status in Havana, Cuba.

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School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, Montreal, Canada.



Adequate intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs) is required for optimal development of the central nervous system and visual acuity in infants. Little information exists regarding the EFA status of vulnerable populations living in Southern regions.


We examined the adequacy of EFA status in Cuban breast-feeding mothers and their infants.


Blood and breast-milk samples were obtained from a cross-sectional sample of mothers and term infants in Havana at 2 mo postpartum. We determined the fatty acid profiles of total lipids in breast milk, plasma, and erythrocytes and assessed infant visual acuity by using Teller acuity cards.


Of the 56 mothers and infants examined, none showed biochemical signs of poor EFA status. Compared with values reported in the literature, mothers had an adequate EFA profile in their breast milk, plasma, and erythrocytes. The docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) concentration in breast milk was 0.43 +/- 0.26% of total fatty acids. It appeared that these breast-fed infants had an adequate dietary supply of DHA, as reflected by the mean plasma and erythrocyte DHA concentrations (2.82 +/- 0.84% and 7.41 +/- 1.16% of total fatty acids, respectively). Infant visual acuity testing showed a mean of 2.00 +/- 0.68 cycles/degree, which is within the normal range of mean binocular acuities for 2-mo-old term infants. The data did not show any relation between EFA concentrations and visual acuity.


The results suggest that n-3 fatty acid deficiency and potential related deficits in early visual neural development are rare, if they exist at all, in breast-feeding women and their infants in Havana.

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