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Research Project: Improvement and Maintenance of Flavor, Shelf Life, Functional Characteristics, and Biochemical/Bioactive Components in Peanuts, Peanut Products and Related Commodities through Improved Handling, ...

Location: Food Science and Market Quality and Handling Research Unit

Title: A cross-sectional study of fatty acids and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in human milk from lactating women following vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diets

Author
item PERRIN, MARYANNE - University Of North Carolina
item PAWLAK, ROMAN - East Carolina University
item Dean, Lisa
item CHRISTIS, AMBER - University Of North Carolina
item FRIEND, LINDA - University Of North Carolina

Submitted to: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/19/2018
Publication Date: 7/22/2018
Citation: Perrin, M.P., Pawlak, R., Dean, L.L., Christis, A., Friend, L. 2018. A cross-sectional study of fatty acids and brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in human milk from lactating women following vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. pp. 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1793-z.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1793-z

Interpretive Summary: The diet of a breast feeding mother plays a major role in the nutrition that her infant receives. Certain fatty acids cannot be made by humans and must be supplied by the diet. Traditional western diets are often low in omega-3 fatty acids. Vegetarian diets are often higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids. This study found that the breast milk from lactating women had higher levels of the polyunsaturated fatty acids than those women who consumed diets containing meat. In addition, the levels of trans fatty acids were lower in the women with vegan or vegetarian diets. Supplement use or consumption of seafood was not evaluated but may be recommended for lactating women regardless of their dietary habits.

Technical Abstract: Essential fatty acids are critical for brain growth and neurodevelopment in infancy. Maternal diet and supplement use have a significant impact on the fat composition of human milk. Unsaturated fatty acid content in the breast milk of vegan, vegetarian, and omnivores was 64.2%, 57.3%, and 56.1%, respectively (p < 0.001). Total omega-3 content was 2.26% for vegans, 1.53% for vegetarians, and 1.67% for omnivores (p < 0.001). Docosahexaenoic acid concentration was not different by diet pattern, but over 80% of participants had milk concentrations below 0.30%. Reports of omega-3 supplements use (11/74) and weekly seafood consumption (3/74) were limited. BDNF was not detectable in any samples. Breast milk from vegans had significantly higher unsaturated fat and total omega-3 fats, and lower saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 to omega-3 ratios than their vegetarian and omnivore counterparts. Docosahexaenoic acid concentrations in breast milk were low regardless of maternal diet pattern, and were reflective of low seafood intake and supplement use.