Acute changes to breast milk composition following consumption of high-fat and high-sugar meals

Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Jul;17(3):e13168. doi: 10.1111/mcn.13168. Epub 2021 Mar 3.


Breast milk composition is influenced by habitual diet, yet little is known about the short-term effects of changes in maternal diet on breast milk macronutrient concentrations. Our aim was to determine the acute effect of increased consumption of sugar/fat on breast milk protein, lactose and lipids. Exclusively breastfeeding women (n = 9) were provided with a control, higher fat (+28 g fat) and higher sugar (+66 g sugar) diet over three separate days at least 1 week apart. Hourly breast milk samples were collected concurrently for the analysis of triglycerides, cholesterol, protein, and lactose concentrations. Breast milk triglycerides increased significantly following both the higher fat and sugar diet with a greater response to the higher sugar compared to control diet (mean differences of 3.05 g/dL ± 0.39 and 13.8 g/dL ± 0.39 in higher fat and sugar diets, respectively [P < 0.001]). Breast milk cholesterol concentrations increased most in response to the higher sugar diet (0.07 g/dL ± 0.005) compared to the control (0.04 g/dL) and the higher fat diet (0.05 g/dL) P < 0.005. Breast milk triglyceride and lactose concentrations increased (P < 0.001, P = 0.006), whereas protein decreased (p = 0.05) in response to the higher fat diet compared to the control. Independent of diet, there were significant variations in breast milk composition over the day; triglycerides and cholesterol concentrations were higher at end of day (P < 0.001), whereas protein and lactose concentrations peaked at Hour 10 (of 12) (P < 0.001). In conclusion, controlled short-term feeding to increase daily sugar/fat consumption altered breast milk triglycerides, cholesterol, protein and lactose. The variations observed in breast milk protein and lactose across the 12 h period is suggestive of a circadian rhythm.

Keywords: breast feeding and maternal nutrition; breast milk; diet; lactation; macronutrients; maternal nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Meals
  • Milk Proteins
  • Milk, Human*
  • Sugars*


  • Milk Proteins
  • Sugars