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Lipids and human milk

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To support the growth and development of the breast‐fed infant, human milk provides the dietary essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (LA; 18:2n‐6), α‐linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3n‐3), as well as longer‐chain polyunsaturated fatty acids including arachidonic acid (20:4n‐6) and docosahexanoic (DHA 22:6n‐3). The linoleic acid, alpha‐linolenic acid, DHA and arachidonic acid concentration of pasteurized and unpasteurized human milk remains stable during the first month of storage at –20°C and –80°C. However after the first month, a slow decrease in concentration progresses until the end of 6 months of storage at both temperatures. The levels of n‐6 and n‐3 fatty acids, particularly linoleic acid, alpha‐linolenic acid and DHA, in human milk vary widely within and among different populations, and are readily changed by maternal dietary intake of the respective fatty acid. The present paper reviews recent understanding from key researchers of maternal diet and human milk fat composition and form our work the effect of milk fat composition on storage conditions. It is important to understand that maternal diet can affect human milk fat composition and subsequently infant development and growth.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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