Nutrition Videos

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Fatty Acids and Fat-Soluble Vitamins in Breast Milk: Factors Affecting their Concentrations and their Physiological Significance

Speakers: A. Morrow

Presented at 90th Nestlé Nutrition Institute Workshop: Human Milk: Composition,...


Fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins are both part of the human milk lipid fraction. This presentation looks into these components within human milk across populations globally, the influences on the variability of human milk and the health relevance of its fat content. Ardythe Morrow details the various fatty acids in human milk which reflect the mother’s diet as well the make-up of her adipose tissue. She explores data from two major studies, one comparing the fat content of mother’s milk from a group in the Amazon area of Bolivia against a group of mothers in Cincinnati, USA. 

The second study looks at the branched chain fatty acid content of mother’s milk from groups in the US, Mexico City and Shanghai. She concludes that diet and genetic influence play a major part in the differences, which are marked across the populations studied. The second part of the presentation looks closely at fat soluble vitamins in human milk (vitamins A, D, E and K) and the deficiencies seen across various global populations in recent studies. Because of a lack of data and outcomes, it remains an open question whether there is a global public health problem in this area. Evolutionary processes are at work, and we need to know what is good, what is bad and what does not matter regarding the differences that are coming to light.