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High contents of both docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acids in milk of women consuming fish from lake Kitangiri (Tanzania): targets for infant formulae close to our ancient diet?

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Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Groningen University Hospital, CMC-V, Room Y 1.165, P.O. Box 30 001, 9700 RB Groningen, The Netherlands.


Current recommendations for arachidonic (AA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids in infant formulae are based on milk of Western mothers. Validity may be questioned in view of the profound dietary changes in the past 100 years, as opposed to our slowly adapting genome. Hominin evolution occurred in the proximity of East-African freshwater lakes and rivers and early homo sapiens had higher intakes of AA and DHA from a predominantly lacustrine-based diet. In search of milk AA and DHA contents of our African ancestors, we investigated the milk of 29 lactating women living in Doromoni near lake Kitangiri (Tanzania). They consumed sunflower oil-fried local fish as only animal lipid sources, maize and local vegetables. AA and DHA contents of Doromoni milk may be close to that of early homo sapiens, because of the similarity of their life-long consumption of East-African lacustrine-based foods. Human milk fatty acid relationships from our historical worldwide database and the literature revealed that disparities between the Doromoni diet and the presumed ancient diet (i.e. higher carbohydrate and linoleic acid intakes) are unlikely to affect milk AA and DHA contents. Doromoni milk had high contents of AA (median 0.70 mol%), DHA (0.75) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 0.17), and low AA/DHA ratios (median 0.91; 0.55-2.61). This tracks down to consumption of fish with high AA and DHA contents, and AA/EPA ratios. We conclude that the milk AA, DHA and EPA contents of Doromoni women might provide us with clues to optimize infant formulae and perhaps the milk of Western women.

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