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Fish Oil Supplements Help Improve Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Content In Breastmilk, Study Finds

A recent Ethiopian study has unveiled that fish oil supplements may help improve the omega-3 (n-3) long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCP) content of the human milk.

Photo: Mother Breastfeeding a Baby | InStyleHealth

Experts randomly assigned 154 mothers to receive either fish oil capsules or a corn oil control. All of the participants had children 6-12 months of age. The supplements contained 215 mg or docosahexaenoic acid or DHA and 285 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA); controls contained no n-3 LCPs. The study outcome was the n-3 LCP content of the human milk.

Following 6- and 12-months intervention, mothers who were receiving the fish oil supplement revealed a 39% higher concentration of DHA in their breastmilk than the corn oil counterparts, while EPA was higher by 36.2%. In both cases though, the difference was statistically significant. The baseline levels of the human milk LCPs were comparable between the two groups.

On the other hand, arachidonic acid (AA) levels in human breastmilk were significantly lowered by 17.5% in the fish oil group.

While taking into account the various estimates of global averages, researchers saw that breastmilk DHA content was lower among participants at baseline, which remained true even after fish oil supplementation, despite the observed increases in n-3 LCP concentrations. In contrast, AA levels were higher than global averages at baseline, yet normalized after fish oil supplementation.

Researchers stated that maternal milk DHA concentration remained lower than international norms after supplementation. It is recommended that future studies evaluate different doses of n-3 LCP covering a longer period of lactation as well as the impact of potential effect modifiers such as genetic polymorphism and diet.


Source: Eur J Clin Nutr 2021;75:736-747

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