Research Research and Professional Brief| Volume 108, ISSUE 10, P1693-1699, October 2008

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Low Docosahexaenoic Acid in the Diet and Milk of Women in New Mexico


      Because docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is critical for the development of the nervous system, especially during the first year of life, the content of DHA in human milk is important for the well-being of exclusively breastfed infants. The aim of this study was to determine the fatty acid composition, including DHA, of the breast milk fat and serum phospholipids of women in New Mexico, and to correlate these data with dietary fatty acid content. Samples of blood and breast milk, 3-day diet records, and information on dietary supplement use were obtained from 29 women. Eligible subjects were nonsmokers, aged 18 to 40 years, lactating for 1 to 6 months, and not pregnant, taking immunosuppressive drugs, or diagnosed with diabetes. The mean fat content of the breast milk was 3.37±2.34 g/dL. The percentage of DHA in the milk fat was very low (0.11%) relative to international norms (0.2% to 0.4%) and could be explained by the women's low intake of DHA (33 to 58 mg/day). These data can be explained by the fact that the subjects were not taking DHA supplements or consuming foods that are good sources of DHA. Correlations were found between the percentages of DHA in the serum phospholipids and milk fat. The findings underscore the need for educating lactating women about food sources of DHA. Educational opportunities could occur in conjunction with other education postdelivery or during postnatal clinic visits.
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      R. H. Glew is a professor and D. J. VanderJagt is a research associate professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and R. S. Wold is nutrition research manager, General Clinical Research Center, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque


      J. H. Herbein is a professor, and W. A. Wark is a laboratory specialist, Department of Dairy Science, Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University, Blacksburg


      M. A. Martinez is a member of the faculty, Department of Nutrition, Central New Mexico Community College, Albuquerque; at the time of the study, she was a senior research nutritionist, General Clinical Research Center, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque