Fatty acids in preterm milk may differ from term milk

Editor(s): Thakkar SK, De Castro CA, Beauport L, Tolsa JF, Fischer Fumeaux CJ, Affolter M, Giuffrida F .

Temporal Progression of Fatty Acids in Preterm and Term Human Milk of Mothers from Switzerland
Thakkar SK, De Castro CA, Beauport L, Tolsa JF, Fischer Fumeaux CJ, Affolter M, Giuffrida F


In preterm infants, human milk reduces morbidity, mortality, and enhances neurodevelopment. Because of their benefits, it should be the primary choice for feeding, however, fortification of maternal milk might be necessary in order to meet the high nutritional demands form mimicking intrauterine growth. Lipids provide about 50% of total energy in human milk and are present mostly as triacylglycerols, formed by one glycerol and three fatty acids, which range from medium to very long chain and may be saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. Human milk provides essential fatty acids and bioactive fatty acids among others.  

This study analyzed fatty acids in colostrum, transitional and mature milk of mothers delivering preterm infants (28-32 weeks gestational age) and compared to milk from mothers delivering term infants (>37 weeks gestational age), the study was done in Switzerland and included 61 mothers.

Total lipids increased as lactation advanced, but mature milk of the preterm had lower concentration of total lipids. Colostrum for preterm infants had greater concentration of medium chain fatty acids (caprylic 8:0, capric 10:0 and lauric 12:0), as well as greater α linolenic acid (ALA, 18:3 n-3), but was lower in dihomo ƴ linolenic (20:3 n-6) , erucic (20:3 n-6) and nervonic acid (24:1 n-9). Compared to term infants mature milk for preterm infants had more saturated fatty acids, and specifically lauric (12:0) and myristic (14:0) acids, as well as more linoleic acid (LA, 18:2 n-6), and less monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA). There were no differences between preterm and term groups in total polyunsaturated fatty acids and neither in DHA (22:6 n-3), ARA (20:4 n-6) and EPA (20:5 n-3) content neither in colostrum nor in mature milk. This work provides evidence of different composition in the fatty acids of preterm milk compared to term milk, although their implication on developmental outcomes and fortification strategies remain to be investigated.

Nutrients. 2019;11(1). pii: E112. doi: 10.3390/nu11010112.

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