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Intakes and breast-milk concentrations of essential fatty acids are low among Bangladeshi women with 24–48-month-old children

  • Elizabeth A. Yakes (a1) (a2), Joanne E. Arsenault (a1), M. Munirul Islam (a3), Mohammad B. Hossain (a3), Tahmeed Ahmed (a3), J. Bruce German (a4), Laura A. Gillies (a4), Ahmed Shafiqur Rahman (a3), Christiana Drake (a2) (a5), Kazi M. Jamil (a3), Bess L. Lewis (a6) and Kenneth H. Brown (a1) (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 16 February 2011

Maternal fat intake and adipose reserves are major sources of PUFA during lactation. The present study examined the cross-sectional relationship between prolonged breast-feeding and maternal BMI, assessed adequacy of fat intake among lactating and non-lactating mothers of children 24–48 months of age and determined breast-milk fatty acid composition. Multi-stage sampling was used to select a representative sample of mothers from two rural districts in Bangladesh (n 474). Dietary data were collected during two non-consecutive 24 h periods via 12 h in-home daytime observations and recall. The National Cancer Institute method for episodically consumed foods was used to estimate usual intake distributions. Breast milk samples were collected from ninety-eight women, and breast-milk fatty acid methyl esters were quantified using GC. Approximately 42 % of lactating v. 26 % of non-lactating mothers were underweight (BMI < 18·5 kg/m2; P = 0·0003). The maternal diet was low in total fat (approximately 8 % of mean total energy) and food sources of PUFA, including oil and animal source foods, resulting in a low estimated mean total consumption of PUFA (5·1 g/d). Almost all women were estimated to consume less than the recommended intake levels for total fat, total PUFA, α-linolenic acid (ALA) and DHA. Median breast-milk linoleic acid (8·5 % weight) and ALA (0·2 %) concentrations were among the lowest reported in the literature, in contrast with arachidonic acid (0·5 %) and DHA (0·3 %) concentrations, which were mid-range. Bangladeshi women in general, and especially those who practise prolonged breast-feeding, may benefit from increased consumption of food sources of PUFA.

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*Corresponding author: E. A. Yakes, fax +1 530 752 3406, email
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