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Breast milk docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) correlates with DHA status of malnourished infants
  1. Ella N Smita,
  2. Esther A Oelena,
  3. Ejaz Seeratc,
  4. Frits A J Muskietb,
  5. E Rudy Boersmaa
  1. aDepartments of Obstetrics and Pediatrics, Perinatal Nutrition and Development Unit, Groningen University Hospital, Groningen, Netherlands, bDepartment of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Groningen University Hospital, cFederal Government Services Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, Nutrition Rehabilitation Center, Islamabad, Pakistan
  1. Dr E N Smit, c/o Prof. Dr E R Boersma, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology/Pediatrics, Perinatal Nutrition and Development Unit, University Hospital Groningen, Dept CMC 5, k.Y.3179, PO Box 30.001, 9700 RB Groningen, Netherlands email:e.r.boersma{at}


AIM To investigate whether low docosahexaenoic acid (22:6ω3; DHA) status of malnourished, mostly breast fed infants is a result of low ω3 fatty acid intake via breast milk.

METHODS Fatty acid composition of breast milk of eight Pakistani mothers, and of the erythrocytes of their malnourished children was analysed.

RESULTS The milk of the Pakistani mothers contained low percentages of all ω3 and most ω6 fatty acids, compared with milk of Dutch mothers. Breast milk DHA was positively correlated with infant erythrocyte DHA and arachidonic acid (20:4ω6).

CONCLUSION DHA status of these malnourished children is strongly dependent on the ω3 fatty acid intake from breast milk. Augmentation of the infants' ω3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status, or the ω3 and ω6 fatty acid status in general, by supplementation is indicated in deprived circumstances where access to fresh fish is difficult. However, in terms of prevention, maternal supplementation of these long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, preferably from early pregnancy onwards, may be a better option.

  • fatty acid
  • docosahexaenoic acid
  • malnourished
  • breast milk

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