The Impact of Maternal Diet during Pregnancy and Lactation on the Fatty Acid Composition of Erythrocytes and Breast Milk of Chilean Women

Nutrients. 2018 Jun 28;10(7):839. doi: 10.3390/nu10070839.


Maternal diet during pregnancy is relevant for fatty acid supply during fetal life and lactation. Arachidonic (AA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids are also relevant for the normal growth and development of brain and visual system. AA and DHA provided by the mother to the fetus and infant are directly associated with maternal dietary intake and body stores. Our aim was to evaluate the impact of maternal diet, specially referring to the quality of fatty acid intake, in a sample of Chilean women during last stage of pregnancy and across the lactation period. Fifty healthy pregnant women (age range 20⁻33 years) were studied from the 6th month of pregnancy and followed until 6th month of lactation period. Diet characteristics were evaluated through food frequency questionnaires. Fatty acids composition of erythrocyte phospholipids and breast milk samples was assessed by gas-liquid chromatography. Overall, women had high saturated fatty acids intake with sufficient intake of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Diet was high in n-6 PUFA and low in n-3 PUFA (mainly DHA), with imbalanced n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio. Erythrocytes and breast milk DHA concentration was significantly reduced during lactation compared to pregnancy, a pattern not observed for AA. We concluded that is necessary to increase the intake of n-3 PUFA during pregnancy and lactation by improving the quality of consumed foods with particular emphasis on its DHA content.

Keywords: breast milk; docosahexaenoic acid; lactation; maternal diet; n-6 and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Chile
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Energy Intake
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / blood
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid