The Concentration of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Human Milk Is Related to Their Habitual but Not Current Intake

Nutrients. 2019 Jul 12;11(7):1585. doi: 10.3390/nu11071585.


This study determined fatty acid (FA) concentrations in maternal milk and investigated the association between omega-3 fatty acid levels and their maternal current dietary intake (based on three-day dietary records) and habitual dietary intake (based on intake frequency of food products). Tested material comprised 32 samples of human milk, coming from exclusively breastfeeding women during their first month of lactation. Milk fatty acids were analyzed as fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) by gas chromatography using a Hewlett-Packard 6890 gas chromatograph with MS detector 5972A. We did not observe any correlation between current dietary intake of omega-3 FAs and their concentrations in human milk. However, we observed that the habitual intake of fatty fish affected omega-3 FA concentrations in human milk. Kendall's rank correlation coefficients were 0.25 (p = 0.049) for DHA, 0.27 (p = 0.03) for EPA, and 0.28 (p = 0.02) for ALA. Beef consumption was negatively correlated with DHA concentrations in human milk (r = -0.25; p = 0.046). These findings suggest that current omega-3 FA intake does not translate directly into their concentration in human milk. On the contrary, their habitual intake seems to markedly influence their milk concentration.

Keywords: dietary intake; docosahexaenoic acid; eicosapentaenoic acid; food frequency questionnaire; human milk; omega-3 fatty acids; α-linolenic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet Records*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / chemistry*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Analysis
  • Humans
  • Lactation / metabolism
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3