European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 1003–1013 | Cite as

Erythrocyte fatty acid composition of Nepal breast-fed infants

  • Sigrun HenjumEmail author
  • Øyvind Lie
  • Manjeswori Ulak
  • Andrew L. Thorne-Lyman
  • Ram K. Chandyo
  • Prakash S. Shrestha
  • Wafaie W. Fawzi
  • Tor A. Strand
  • Marian Kjellevold
Original Contribution



Essential fatty acids play a critical role in the growth and development of infants, but little is known about the fatty acid status of populations in low-income countries. The objective was to describe the fatty acid composition of red blood cells (RBC) in breastfeed Nepali infants and a subsample of their mothers and to identify the main sources of fatty acids in the mother’s diet, as well as the fatty acid composition of breast milk.


RBC fatty acid composition was analyzed in a random sample of 303 infants and 72 mother, along with 68 breastmilk samples. Fatty acid profiles of the most important dietary fat sources were analyzed. Information on mother’s diet and intake of fat was collected by three 24-h dietary recalls.


In infant RBC’s, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) was the main n-3 fatty acid, and arachidonic acid (AA) was the major n-6 fatty acid. Total n-6 PUFA was three times higher than total n-3 PUFA. Height-for-age (HAZ) was positively associated with DHA status and AA status in multivariable models. The concentration of all fatty acids was higher in children, compared to mothers, except Total n-6 PUFA and Linoleic acid (LA) where no differences were found. The mother’s energy intake from fat was 13% and cooking oil (sesame, mustard, soybean or sunflower oil) contributed 52% of the fat intake.


RBC-DHA levels in both infants and mother was unexpected high taking into account few dietary DHA sources and the low DHA concentrations in breastmilk.


Polyunsaturated fatty acids Plasma phospholipids DHA AA Breast-fed children Breastmilk 



We want to thank the children and their families for participating in this study. We are also grateful to the staff at Siddhi Memorial Hospital and the fieldworkers. Funding: Supported by Research Council of Norway (Project No. 172226), and a grant from the GCRieber Funds, South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority (Grant No. 2012090) and by the USAID Feed the Future Innovation Laboratory for Nutrition.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sigrun Henjum
    • 1
    Email author
  • Øyvind Lie
    • 2
  • Manjeswori Ulak
    • 3
  • Andrew L. Thorne-Lyman
    • 4
    • 6
  • Ram K. Chandyo
    • 5
  • Prakash S. Shrestha
    • 3
  • Wafaie W. Fawzi
    • 6
  • Tor A. Strand
    • 7
  • Marian Kjellevold
    • 2
  1. 1.Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied SciencesOsloNorway
  2. 2.National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES)BergenNorway
  3. 3.Department of Child Health, Institute of MedicineTribhuvan UniversityKathmanduNepal
  4. 4.Center for Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.Department of Community MedicineKathmandu Medical CollegeKathmanduNepal
  6. 6.Departments of Nutrition, Epidemiology, and Global Health and PopulationHarvard T.H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  7. 7.Department of ResearchInnlandet Hospital Trust and Centre for International Health, University of BergenLillehammerNorway

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