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Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jan;77(1):226-33.

Supplementing lactating women with flaxseed oil does not increase docosahexaenoic acid in their milk.

Author information

Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Clinical Nutrition, the Department of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland 97239-3098, USA.

Erratum in

  • Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Oct;78(4):806.



Flaxseed oil is a rich source of 18:3n-3 (alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA), which is ultimately converted to 22:6n-3 (docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA), a fatty acid important for the development of the infant brain and retina.


The objective of this study was to determine the effect of flaxseed oil supplementation on the breast-milk, plasma, and erythrocyte contents of DHA and other n-3 fatty acids in lactating women.


Seven women took 20 g flaxseed oil (10.7 g ALA) daily for 4 wk. Breast-milk and blood samples were collected weekly before, during, and after supplementation and were analyzed for fatty acid composition.


Breast milk, plasma, and erythrocyte ALA increased significantly over time (P < 0.001) and after 2 and 4 wk of supplementation (P < 0.05). Over time, 20:5n-3 (eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA) increased significantly in breast milk (P = 0.004) and in plasma (P < 0.001). In addition, plasma EPA increased significantly (P < 0.05) after 2 and 4 wk of supplementation. There were significant increases over time in breast-milk 22:5n-3 (docosapentaenoic acid, or DPA) (P < 0.02), plasma DPA (P < 0.001), and erythrocyte DPA (P < 0.01). No significant changes were observed in breast-milk, plasma, or erythrocyte DHA contents after flaxseed oil supplementation.


Dietary flaxseed oil increased the breast-milk, plasma, and erythrocyte contents of the n-3 fatty acids ALA, EPA, and DPA but had no effect on breast-milk, plasma, or erythrocyte DHA contents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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