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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BHNRC) » Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center » Nutrient Data Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #344725

Research Project: USDA National Nutrient Databank for Food Composition

Location: Nutrient Data Laboratory

Title: Human milk nutrient composition in the United States: current knowledge, challenges and research needs

Author
item Wu, Xianli
item Jackson, Robert - University Of Maryland
item Khan, Saira - University Of Maryland
item Ahuja, Jaspreet
item Pehrsson, Pamela

Submitted to: Current Developments in Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/8/2018
Publication Date: 5/31/2018
Citation: Wu, X., Jackson, R., Khan, S., Ahuja, J.K., Pehrsson, P.R. 2018. Human milk nutrient composition in the United States: current knowledge, challenges and research needs. Current Developments in Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzy025.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzy025

Interpretive Summary: Human milk is considered to be the ideal food for infants. Accurate, representative and up-to-date nutrient composition data of human milk are crucial for the management of infant feeding, assessment of infant nutritional need, and as a guide for developing baby formula. Currently, the nutrient information of human milk could be found in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Database for Standard Reference, and from the books or review articles. Nonetheless, they all suffer major drawbacks, such as being outdated, incomplete profiles, limited source of data, and uncertain data quality. Furthermore, no nutrient profile was developed specifically for the U.S. population. The purposes of this review were to summarize the current knowledge of human milk nutrient composition from the studies conducted in the United States or Canada, and to identify the knowledge gaps and research needs.

Technical Abstract: Human milk is considered to be the ideal food for infants. Accurate, representative and up-to-date nutrient composition data of human milk are crucial for the management of infant feeding, assessment of infant and maternal nutritional need, and as a guide for developing baby formula. Currently in the US, the nutrient profiles of human milk could be found in the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, and from the books or review articles. Nonetheless, they all suffer major drawbacks, such as being outdated, incomplete profiles, limited source of data, and uncertain data quality. Furthermore, no nutrient profile was developed specifically for the US population. The purposes of this review were to summarize the current knowledge of human milk nutrient composition from the studies conducted in the US and Canada, and to identify the knowledge gaps and research needs. The literature review was conducted to cover the years 1980-2017, and 28 research papers were found containing original data of macronutrients and micronutrients. Most of these 28 studies were published before 1990 and mainly examined samples from small groups of generally healthy lactating women. The experimental designs, including sampling, storage and analytical methods, varied substantially amongst the different studies. Data of several components from these 28 studies showed some consistency for 1-6 months postpartum, especially for protein, fat, lactose, energy and certain minerals (e.g., calcium). The data for 7-12 months postpartum and for other nutrients are very scarce. Comprehensive studies are required to provide current and complete nutrient information on human milk in the US.