A randomized trial of supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid-rich tuna oil and its effects on the human milk cytokines interleukin 1β, interleukin 6, and tumor necrosis factor α

Joanna S. Hawkes, Dani Louise Bryan, Maria Makrides, Mark A. Neumann, Robert A. Gibson

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Increased consumption ot n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) has been recommended during pregnancy and lactation. The production of proinflammatory cytokines by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) can be modified by dietary n-3 PUFAs. Objective: We sought to determine whether dietary supplementation of lactating women with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can modulate the concentration of cytokines in the aqueous phase of human milk and the production of cytokines by human milk cells (HMCs) and PBMCs. Design: In this double-blind, prospective, randomized trial, mothers of healthy full-term infants were asked to consume daily a nutritional supplement of 2000 mg oil containing either placebo (n = 40), 300 mg DHA + 70 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; n = 40), or 600 mg DHA + 140 mg EPA (n = 40). The fatty acid composition of plasma, PBMCs, milk, and HMCs from lactating mothers at 4 wk postpartum was measured by gas chromatography. The concentration of interleukin 6 and tumor necrosis factor a in milk and the production of interleukin 1β, tumor necrosis factor α, and interleukin 6 by PBMCs and HMCs after stimulation with lipopolysaccharide was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: At 4 wk postpartum, 82 mothers were still breast-feeding their infants. DHA increases in maternal plasma, PBMCs, milk, and HMCs were proportional to dietary DHA. There was no relation between tissue DHA status and cytokine concentrations. Conclusions: Consumption of ≤600 mg DHA and 140 mg EPA/d for 4 wk increased n-3 PUFA concentrations in relevant tissues but did not cause perturbations in cytokine concentrations in human milk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-760
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast-feeding
  • Cytokines
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Human milk
  • Human milk cells
  • Interleukin 1β
  • Interleukin 6
  • N-3 fatty acids
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Tumor necrosis factor α
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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