Fatty acid composition of the milk lipids of Fulani women and the serum phospholipids of their exclusively breast-fed infants.Early Hum Dev 2000; 60(2):73-87EH
We previously reported that, relative to milk of women elsewhere in the world, the lipid fraction of milk of Fulani women in northern Nigeria contained relatively low proportions of alpha-linolenic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This led us to question the essential fatty acid status of Fulani infants and the relation between the proportion of critical n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in the serum phospholipids of the mothers, their milk, and the serum phospholipids of their exclusively breast-fed infants. We were also interested in the effect de novo intermediate chain length-fatty acids (C10-C14) had on the proportions of critical and non-essential fatty acids in milk. Capillary gas-liquid chromatography was used to analyze the fatty acid content of the total milk lipids of 34 Fulani women, as well as the fatty acid content of serum phospholipids of the women and their breast-fed infants during the first 6 months of life. The proportions of critical n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in the milk of the Fulani women were adequate, but the proportions of these same fatty acids were low in their exclusively breast-fed infants. The serum phospholipids of the infants contained 18.8% linoleic acid, 0.13% alpha-linolenic acid, 12.8% arachidonic acid, and 3.40% DHA, whereas, the mean percentages of linoleic, alpha-linolenic, arachidonic and DHA in the serum phospholipids of the Fulani mothers' were 21.4, 0.20, 9.79, and 1.97, respectively. There was a strong positive correlation between fatty acid content of serum phospholipids of Fulani women and the fatty acid content of their milk lipids. As the proportion of C10-C14 fatty acids in the milk lipids increased, the proportions of critical n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in milk remained relatively constant; however, proportions of three non-essential fatty acids decreased dramatically. C10-C14 fatty acids do not appear to displace critical n-3 and n-6 fatty acids in milk.