Fatty acid composition of milk of refugee Karen and urban Korean mothers. Is the level of DHA in breast milk of Western women compromised by high intake of saturated fat and linoleic acid?
Golfetto I., McGready R., Ghebremeskel K., Min Y., Dubowitz L., Nosten F., Drury P., Simpson JA., Arunjerdja R., Crawford MA.
BACKGROUND: Lower proportions of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and total n-3 metabolites have been reported in breast milk of European, Australian and North American women compared with milk of mothers from non-Western countries. This difference is not always explained by intakes of marine products. OBJECTIVE: We investigated the possibility that the relative composition of DHA and total n-3 metabolites in breast milk of non-Western mothers with low fat intakes is higher than the levels commonly reported in their Western counterparts. SUBJECTS: Mature milk of refugee Karen women from two different camps in Thailand (n=26 and n=53), and transition milk from urban Korean mothers (n=12) in Seoul was collected. In common with their respective community, the mothers have low fat intake, which is predominately of plant origin. RESULTS: The percentage levels of DHA and n-3 metabolites in the milk of the Karen mothers were 0.52 +/- 0.14 and 0.85 +/- 0.24 (camp 1) and 0.54 +/- 0.22 and 0.92 +/- 0.42 (camp 2). In the Korean milk, DHA was 0.96 +/- 0.21 and total n-3 metabolites 1.51 +/- 0.3. CONCLUSION: We postulate that the levels of DHA and total n-3 metabolites may be compromised in breast milk of mothers on the Western high fat diet. This calls into question the use of DHA composition of such milk as a reference for the formulation of milk designed, for infant feed or, to test the function of DHA in neuro-visual development.