Fatty acid composition in maternal milk and plasma during supplementation with cod liver oil

Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998 Nov;52(11):839-45. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600656.


Objective: We investigated how cod liver oil influences the amount of essential fatty acids in mothers' breast milk.

Design and intervention: Lactating mothers (n =22) were randomized into four groups 3-8 weeks after parturition. They were supplemented for 14 days with 0, 2.5, 5 and 10 ml cod liver oil (7.7 g eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3), 10.2 g docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) and 22.9 g n-3 fatty acids in total per 100 ml).

Results: In maternal plasma phospholipids there was an increase in the content of EPA and DHA in the group supplemented with 10 ml cod liver oil daily (P < or = 0.05). DHA concentrations in breast milk pre-supplementation ranged from 0.15 to 1.56 wt% and increased in all supplemented groups (P< or =0.05). The concentration of EPA in breast milk increased in the groups supplemented with 5 or 10 ml cod liver oil (P< or =0.05), whereas the concentration of arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6) did not change in any of the supplemented groups. Total intake of DHA adjusted to body mass index (BMI), correlated to DHA concentrations in plasma (r = 0.49, P = 0.02) and breast milk (r = 0.45, P = 0.04). The concentration of tocopherol did not change during the supplementation period, neither in plasma nor in breast milk.

Conclusion: Dietary intake of DHA is reflected in the concentration of DHA in breast milk, without affecting the concentration of AA or tocopherol.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cod Liver Oil / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / blood
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid / blood
  • Energy Intake
  • Fatty Acids / analysis*
  • Fatty Acids / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Phospholipids / blood
  • Vitamin E / analysis
  • Vitamin E / blood


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids
  • Phospholipids
  • Vitamin E
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid