Docosahexaenoic acid transfer into human milk after dietary supplementation: a randomized clinical trial

J Lipid Res. 2000 Sep;41(9):1376-83.


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for infant development. The DHA transfer from maternal diet into human milk has not been investigated in detail. We studied the effects of DHA supplementation on the fatty acid composition of human milk and the secretion of dietary (13)C-labeled fatty acids, including DHA, into human milk. Ten lactating women were randomized to consume, from 4 to 6 weeks postpartum, an oil rich in DHA (DHASCO, 200 mg of DHA/day) (n = 5) or a placebo oil (n = 5). Dietary intakes were followed by 7-day protocols. On study day 14 a single dose of [U-(13)C]DHASCO was given orally, milk samples were collected over 48 h, and milk production was recorded. Milk fatty acid composition was determined by gas-liquid chromatography and isotopic enrichment was determined by gas chromatography- combustion-isotope ratio mass spectrometry (GC-C-IRMS). Milk DHA content did not differ between the supplemented and placebo group at study entry (0.29 vs. 0.28 wt%, median). After 2 weeks of supplementation the milk DHA content was almost 2-fold higher in the supplemented versus placebo group (0.37 vs. 0.21 wt%, P = 0.003). Cumulative recovery of [(13)C]palmitic, [(13)C]oleic, and [(13)C]docosahexaenoic acids in human milk at 48 h was similar between supplemented and placebo groups (palmitic acid 7.40 vs. 8. 14%, oleic acid 9.14 vs. 9.97%, and docosahexaenoic acid 9.09 vs. 8. 03% of dose, respectively). Notable lower recovery was observed for [(13)C]myristic acid in both the supplemented and placebo groups, 0. 62 versus 0.77% of dose. Dietary DHA supplementation increases the DHA content in human milk. DHA transfer from the diet into human milk is comparable to palmitic and oleic acid transfer.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Dietary Fats / analysis
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / analysis
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacokinetics*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Oleic Acid / analysis
  • Palmitic Acid / analysis
  • Placebos


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Dietary Fats
  • Placebos
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Oleic Acid
  • Palmitic Acid