Milk lipids are an important energy source for infants, but the composition of milk lipids has not yet been clarified in detail. In this study, we analyzed free fatty acids and their metabolites in milk from humans and cows. In comparison to cow milk, human milk showed a higher content of free fatty acids including polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially ω-3 fatty acids and their metabolites. Polyunsaturated fatty acids were enriched at an early period of lactation, while saturated fatty acids did not change significantly over the period. Moreover, human milk contained high levels of ω-3 fatty acid metabolites, particularly 18-hydroxyeicosapentaenoic acid, an eicosapentaenoic acid-derived metabolite with anti-inflammatory activity. In comparison with human normal milk, thromboxane B2 and protectin D1 levels were significantly elevated in milk from individuals with mastitis, suggesting that these lipid mediators could be potential biomarkers of obstructive mastitis. Overall, the unique lipid profile of human milk supports the efficacy of breast-feeding for supply of more nutritional and bioactive lipids in comparison to artificial or cow milk to infants, in whom digestive and absorptive functions are still immature.
Keywords: Human milk; Lipidomics; Mastitis; Pro-inflammatory lipid mediators; Pro-resolving lipid mediators.
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