Human milk fatty acids from lactating mothers of preterm infants: A study revealing wide intra- and inter-individual variation

L. G. Smithers, M. Markrides, R. A. Gibson

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) are important nutrients in the preterm diet and fixed ratios have been proposed for formula. We evaluated the intra- and inter-individual variation in milk fatty acids from mothers of preterm infants involved in a randomised trial of tuna oil or placebo supplementation. Milk samples were collected every 2 weeks while infants were hospitalised and fatty acids analysed by capillary gas chromatography. DHA was higher in milk of supplemented mothers than control (% total fatty acids, mean±SD, treatment 0.9±0.4, control 0.3±0.1, p<0.0005) and ranged between 0.3-2.5% and 0.1-1.1%, respectively. AA did not differ between groups and ranged between 0.2-0.9% and 0.3-0.9%, respectively. Control mothers milk had wider AA:DHA ratio than treatment mothers (0.4-3.2 versus 0.2-2.1). Due to the wide variation in milk AA and DHA, statements recommending infant formula based on a fixed AA:DHA ratio should be re-examined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-13
Number of pages5
JournalProstaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Arachidonic acid
  • Docosahexaenoic acid
  • Human milk
  • Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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