Skip to main content

Breast milk fatty acid composition and fatty acid intake of lactating mothers in South Korea

  • Hyesook Kim (a1), Sujeong Kang (a2), Byung-Moon Jung (a2), Hyunju Yi (a2), Ji A. Jung (a2) and Namsoo Chang (a1)...

The aim of this study was to determine the fatty acid (FA) composition of breast milk, and its association with mothers’ FA intake. Milk samples were obtained from 238 healthy lactating women who volunteered to participate in the Human Milk Micronutrients Analysis Research. Dietary intake during lactation was assessed using a 3-d food record, and fat content and FA composition of the breast milk samples were analysed by IR spectrometry using MilkoScan FT2 and GC flame ionisation detector, respectively. The fat content was 3·31 (sd 1·41) g/100 ml breast milk. The concentrations of arachidonic acid (20 : 4 n-6), EPA (20 : 5 n-3) and DHA (22 : 6 n-3) in breast milk were 0·48 (sd 0·13), 0·15 (sd 0·12) and 0·67 (sd 0·47) % of total FA, respectively. Fat content and FA composition of breast milk were associated with maternal age, BMI, supplement use and infant age. Dietary intakes of EPA, DHA, n-3 FA, n-6 FA, SFA and PUFA were positively correlated with the corresponding FA in the milk samples. FA levels in breast milk and maternal diet are highly correlated. Further studies are warranted to explore factors that may be associated with changes in FA composition in human milk.

Corresponding author
* Corresponding authors: N. Chang, fax +82 2 3277 2862, email; J. A. Jung, fax +82 2 3675 6292, email
Hide All
1. Kramer MS & Kakuma R (2004) The optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding: a systematic review. Adv Exp Med Biol 554, 6377.
2. Holman RT (1971) Biological activities and requirements for polyunsaturated acids. Prog Chem Fats Other Lipids 9, 607682.
3. Scopesi F, Ciangherotti S, Lantieri PB, et al. (2001) Maternal dietary PUFAs intake and human milk content relationships during the first month of lactation. Clin Nutr 20, 393397.
4. Koletzko B, Boey CC, Campoy C, et al. (2014) Current information and Asian perspectives on long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in pregnancy, lactation, and infancy: systematic review and practice recommendations from an early nutrition academy workshop. Ann Nutr Metab 65, 4980.
5. Uauy R, Mena P & Rojas C (2000) Essential fatty acids in early life: structural and functional role. Proc Nutr Soc 59, 315.
6. Carlson SE, Rhodes PG, Rao VS, et al. (1987) Effect of fish oil supplementation on the n-3 fatty acid content of red blood cell membranes in preterm infants. Pediatr Res 21, 507510.
7. Yuhas R, Pramuk K & Lien EL (2006) Human milk fatty acid composition from nine countries varies most in DHA. Lipids 41, 851858.
8. Antonakou A, Skenderi KP, Chiou A, et al. (2013) Breast milk fat concentration and fatty acid pattern during the first six months in exclusively breastfeeding Greek women. Eur J Nutr 52, 963973.
9. Xiang M, Harbige LS & Zetterström R (2005) Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in Chinese and Swedish mothers: diet, breast milk and infant growth. Acta Paediatr 94, 15431549.
10. Liu MJ, Li HT, Yu LX, et al. (2016) A correlation study of DHA dietary intake and plasma, erythrocyte and breast milk DHA concentrations in lactating women from coastland, lakeland, and inland areas of China. Nutrients 8, 312323.
11. Golfetto I, McGready R, Ghebremeskel K, et al. (2007) Fatty acid composition of milk of refugee Karen and urban Korean mothers. Is the level of DHA in breast milk of Western women compromised by high intake of saturated fat and linoleic acid? Nutr Health 18, 319332.
12. Brenna JT, Varamini B, Jensen RG, et al. (2007) Docosahexaenoic and arachidonic acid concentrations in human breast milk worldwide. Am J Clin Nutr 85, 14571464.
13. Jang SH, Lee BS, Park JH, et al. (2011) Serial changes of fatty acids in preterm breast milk of Korean women. J Hum Lact 27, 279285.
14. Kim CS, Ko SH, Kwon HS, et al. (2014) Prevalence, awareness, and management of obesity in Korea: data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1998–2011). Diabetes Metab J 38, 3543.
15. Bae SG, Kim JY, Kim KY, et al. (2012) Changes in dietary behavior among adolescents and their association with government nutrition policies in Korea, 2005–2009. J Prev Med Public Health 45, 4759.
16. United State Department of Agriculture (2013) Agricultural Research Service. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. (accessed October 2013).
17. National Fisheries Research & Development Institute (KR) (2012) Fatty Acid Composition of Fisheries Products in Korea. Busan: National Fisheries Research & Development Institute.
18. Chang N, Jung JA, Kim H, et al. (2015) Macronutrient composition of human milk from Korean mothers of full term infants born at 37–42 gestational weeks. Nutr Res Pract 9, 433438.
19. Folch J, Lees M & Sloane Stanley GH (1957) A simple method for the isolation and purification of total lipides from animal tissues. J Biol Chem 226, 497509.
20. de la Presa-Owens S, López-Sabater MC & Rivero-Urgell M (1996) Fatty acid composition of human milk in Spain. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 22, 180185.
21. Szabó E, Boehm G, Beermann C, et al. (2010) Fatty acid profile comparisons in human milk sampled from the same mothers at the sixth week and the sixth month of lactation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 50, 316320.
22. Grote V, Verduci E, Scaglioni S, et al. (2016) Breast milk composition and infant nutrient intakes during the first 12 months of life. Eur J Clin Nutr 70, 250256.
23. Wan ZX, Wang XL, Xu L, et al. (2010) Lipid content and fatty acids composition of mature human milk in rural North China. Br J Nutr 103, 913916.
24. Peng Y, Zhou T, Wang Q, et al. (2009) Fatty acid composition of diet, cord blood and breast milk in Chinese mothers with different dietary habits. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 81, 325330.
25. Glew RH, Huang YS, Vander Jagt TA, et al. (2001) Fatty acid composition of the milk lipids of Nepalese women: correlation between fatty acid composition of serum phospholipids and melting point. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acid 65, 147156.
26. Yakes EA, Arsenault JE, Munirul Islam M, et al. (2011) Intakes and breast-milk concentrations of essential fatty acids are low among Bangladeshi women with 24–48-month-old children. Br J Nutr 105, 16601670.
27. Nyuar KB, Min Y, Ghebremeskel K, et al. (2010) Milk of northern Sudanese mothers whose traditional diet is high in carbohydrate contains low docosahexaenoic acid. Acta Paediatr 99, 18241827.
28. Glew RH, Wold RS, Herbein JH, et al. (2008) Low docosahexaenoic acid in the diet and milk of women in New Mexico. J Am Diet Assoc 108, 16931699.
29. Jia X, Pakseresht M, Wattar N, et al. (2015) Women who take n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplements during pregnancy and lactation meet the recommended intake. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab 40, 474481.
30. Uauy-Dagach R, Mena P & Hoffman DR (1994) Essential fatty acid metabolism and requirements for LBW infants. Acta Paediatr Suppl 405, 7885.
31. Jensen RG (1996) The lipids in human milk. Prog Lipid Res 35, 5392.
32. Krasevec JM, Jones PJ, Cabrera-Hernandez A, et al. (2002) Maternal and infant essential fatty acid status in Havana, Cuba. Am J Clin Nutr 76, 834844.
33. Aggett PJ, Haschke F, Heine W, et al. (1991) Comment on the content and composition of lipids in infant formulas. Acta Paediatr Scand 80, 887896.
34. Marín MC, Sanjurjo A, Rodrigo MA, et al. (2005) Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in breast milk in La Plata, Argentina: relationship with maternal nutritional status. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 73, 355360.
35. Keim SA, Daniels JL, Siega-Riz AM, et al. (2011) Breastfeeding and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake in the first 4 post-natal months and infant cognitive development: an observational study. Matern Child Nutr 8, 471482.
36. Glaser C, Lattka E, Rzehak P, et al. (2011) Genetic variation in polyunsaturated fatty acid metabolism and its potential relevance for human development and health. Matern Child Nutr 7, Suppl. 2, 2740.
37. Carlson SE, Ford AJ, Werkman SH, et al. (1996) Visual acuity and fatty acid status of term infants fed human milk and formulas with and without docosahexaenoate and arachidonate from egg yolk lecithin. Pediatr Res 39, 882888.
38. Olafsdottir AS, Thorsdottir I, Wagner KH, et al. (2006) Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the diet and breast milk of lactating Icelandic women with traditional fish and cod liver oil consumption. Ann Nutr Metab 50, 270276.
39. Uauy RD, Birch DG, Birch EE, et al. (1990) Effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on retinal function of very-low-birth-weight neonates. Pediatr Res 28, 485492.
40. Carlson SE, Werkman SH, Rhodes PG, et al. (1993) Visual-acuity development in healthy preterm infants: effect of marine-oil supplementation. Am J Clin Nutr 58, 3542.
41. Koletzko B & Braun M (1991) Arachidonic acid and early human growth: is there a relation? Ann Nutr Metab 35, 128131.
42. Hadley KB, Ryan AS, Forsyth S, et al. (2016) The essentiality of arachidonic acid in infant development. Nutrients 8, 216.
43. Michaelsen KF, Skafte L, Badsberg JH, et al. (1990) Variation in macronutrients in human bank milk: influencing factors and implications for human milk banking. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 11, 229239.
44. Nommsen LA, Lovelady CA, Heinig MJ, et al. (1991) Determinants of energy, protein, lipid, and lactose concentrations in human milk during the first 12 mo of lactation: the DARLING Study. Am J Clin Nutr 53, 457465.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

British Journal of Nutrition
  • ISSN: 0007-1145
  • EISSN: 1475-2662
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 12
Total number of PDF views: 206 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1369 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 13th March 2017 - 22nd February 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.