Temporal Progression of Fatty Acids in Preterm and Term Human Milk of Mothers from Switzerland

Nutrients. 2019 Jan 8;11(1):112. doi: 10.3390/nu11010112.


We longitudinally compared fatty acids (FA) from human milk (HM) of mothers delivering term and preterm infants. HM was collected for 4 months postpartum at 12 time points for preterm and for 2 months postpartum at 8 time points for term group. Samples were collected from the first feed of the morning, and single breast was fully expressed. FA were analyzed by gas chromatography coupled with flame ionization detector. Oleic, palmitic and linoleic acids were the most abundant FA across lactation and in both groups. Preterm colostrum contained significantly (p < 0.05) higher 8:0, 10:0, 12:0, sum medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), 18:3 n-3 FA compared to term counterparts. Preterm mature milk contained significantly higher 12:0, 14:0, 18:2 n-6, sum saturated fatty acids (SFA), and sum MCFA. We did not observe any significant differences between the preterm and term groups for docosahexaenoic acid, arachidonic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid at any stage of lactation. Overall, preterm milk was higher for SFA with a major contribution from MCFA and higher in 18:2 n-6. These observational differences needs to be studied further for their implications on preterm developmental outcomes and on fortification strategies of either mothers' own milk or donor human milk.

Keywords: arachidonic acid (ARA); docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); donor human milk; eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); fatty acids; human milk; human milk fortification; infants; lipids; mothers’ own milk; preterm; term.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Breast / metabolism
  • Breast Feeding
  • Colostrum / metabolism*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Mothers
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth*
  • Switzerland
  • Term Birth*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid

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