The Essentiality of Eicosapentaenoic Acid in Breast Milk During Human Lactation

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Abstract

The case is described of a European woman in her thirties whose diet contained very little n-3 longchain polyunsaturated fatty acids apart from an intake of one docosahexaenoic acid-enriched egg daily over the previous 6 yr. This enrichment process was carried out by feeding hens a diet close to that of their wild ancestor, the Jungle Fowl, by including a wider range of seeds and green vegetation than is normally the case in modern farming practice. During this period the subject had two full-term normal pregnancies. Analyses of her breast milk during the postnatal periods have consistently shown that her milk was richer in both eicosapentaenoic acid (C20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (C22:6n-3) than average European human milk from lactating women. This study demonstrates that it is ideal for lactating women to consume a dietary source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids from which they can provide both eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid for their baby. The study also indicates that current average Western human milk is considerably lower in eicosapentaenoic acid than is optimal and we would recommend further study in this area to define optimal fatty acid levels for lactating women based on a balanced source of dietary lipids, rather than one based on a diet lacking in these fatty acids which we believe produces inadequate levels of eicosapentaenoic acid in human milk.