Women from Newfoundland and Labrador Have High Levels of Omega-6 Fatty Acids in Breast Milk Compared to Other Canadian Women: A Cross-Sectional Study

Vaidya H, Feltham B, Kwa PG, Newhook LA, Twells L

Omega (n)-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in breast milk and cord blood play a decisive role in proper growth and development. An imbalance in n-6 to n-3 PUFA ratio is associated with several pathological conditions. Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) has the highest rate of obesity and heart disease in Canada; incidences of asthma and allergies are also on the rise in the province. The aim of the present study was to measure the fatty acid composition of breast milk and corresponding cord blood samples of women from NL and to compare that to similar Canadian studies. Breast milk and cord blood samples were collected from 47 women and the relative percentage of fatty acids was measured using gas liquid chromatography. Breast milk arachidonic acid (AA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) levels were 0.77 and 0.45%, while respective cord blood levels were 13.84, 4.64%. A comparison of breast milk AA and DHA levels of women from NL to that of Vancouver and Canada revealed significantly higher levels of AA and DHA. The levels of total PUFA in breast milk and cord blood were 18.88 and 33.18% respectively, and the n-6 to n-3 PUFA ratio was 7.42 and 5.01 respectively. Women from NL show higher levels of AA and DHA in breast milk, along with total n-6 PUFA compared to the other regions of Canada. These findings are important for further research to determine their possible role in the etiology of obesity, metabolic disorders and allergic manifestations in NL population.

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