Exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances associates with an altered lipid composition of breast milk

Environ Int. 2021 Dec:157:106855. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2021.106855. Epub 2021 Sep 6.


The composition of human breast milk is highly variable inter- and intra-individually. Environmental factors are suspected to contribute to such compositional variation, however, their impact on breast milk composition is currently poorly understood. We sought to (1) define the impact of maternal exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on lipid composition of human breast milk, and (2) to study the combined impact of maternal PFAS exposure and breast milk lipid composition on the growth of the infants.In a mother-infant study (n = 44) we measured the levels of PFAS and lipids in maternal serum and conducted lipidomics analysis of breast milk collect 2-4 days after the delivery and at 3 months of infant age, by using ultra high performance liquid chromatography combined with quadrupole-time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Gastrointestinal biomarkers fecal calprotectin and human beta defensin 2 were measured in the stool samples at the age of 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Maternal diet was studied by a validated food frequency questionnaire. PFAS levels were inversely associated with total lipid levels in the breast milk collected after the delivery. In the high exposure group, the ratio of acylated saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids in triacylglycerols was increased. Moreover, high exposure to PFAS associated with the altered phospholipid composition, which was indicative of unfavorable increase in the size of milk fat globules. These changes in the milk lipid composition were further associated with slower infant growth and with elevated intestinal inflammatory markers. Our data suggest that the maternal exposure to PFAS impacts the nutritional quality of the breast milk, which, in turn, may have detrimental impact on the health and growth of the children later in life.

Keywords: Human breast milk; Infant growth; Intestinal inflammatory markers; Lipidomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Diet
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lipids
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Milk, Human*


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Lipids