Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Human Milk and Their Role in Early Infant Development
- Cite this article as:
- Koletzko, B. & Rodriguez-Palmero, M. J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia (1999) 4: 269. doi:10.1023/A:1018749913421
The lipid fraction of human milk represents themain source of energy for the newborn infant andsupplies essential nutrients such as fat-solublevitamins and polyunsaturated fatty acids(PUFA).3 The essential fatty acids linoleic andα-linolenic acids are precursors of long-chainpolyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA), such asarachidonic (C20:4 n-6) and docosahexaenoic (C22:6 n-3)acids, present in human milk in considerable amounts.LC-PUFA are indispensable structural components of allcellular membranes, and they are incorporated inrelatively large amounts during early growth of the brain and the retina. Moreover, some LC-PUFAare precursors of eicosanoids, molecules with potentbiological activity that modulates various cellular andtissue processes. The supply of long-chain fatty acids has been associated with functionaloutcomes of the recipient infants such as visual acuityand development of cognitive functions during the firstyear of life. Here we discuss the PUFA composition of human milk, factors which determine andmodulate milk PUFA content, and possible effects of milkLC-PUFA on infant growth and development.