Background: We need information on the diet on which our genes evolved.
Objective: We studied the milk fatty acid [FA] composition of mothers living in the island of Chole [Tanzania, Indian Ocean]. These mothers have high intakes of boiled marine fish and coconut, and consume plenty amount of fruits and vegetables.
Design: The outcome was compared with three fish-eating tribes living along Tanzanian freshwater lakes [Kerewe, Nyakius, Nyiramba], four tribes living in the Tanzanian inland [Hadzabe, Maasai, Sonjo, Iraqw] and our milk FA database.
Results: Milk from Chole contained high levels of 12:0 [20.17 g%], 14:0 [21.19], 12:0/14:0 ratio [0.92 g/g], arachidonic acid [AA, 0.50 g%] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA, 0.73], but low levels of linoleic acid [LA, 4.23]. The combination of a high medium chain fatty acid [MCFA; <C16] content and 12:0/14:0 ratio derives notably from coconut consumption, as opposed to a carbohydrate rich diet, while non-existent use of vegetable oils explains low LA. Milk AA/DHA ratios of the four fish-eating groups were related to the AA/DHA ratios of the available fish. Chole MCFA and LA did not fulfill Western recommendations for formulae, while AA and DHA were well above minimum levels.
Conclusions: The Chole milk FA composition is likely to reflect the dietary FA composition of babies born to our ancient ancestors living in East-African coastal regions. The poor compliance with present recommendations raises doubts on the validity of recommendations that are based on milk from Western mothers consuming diets that confer high risk of diseases typical for affluent countries.