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Should there be a target level of docosahexaenoic acid in breast milk?

Jackson, Kristina Harris; Harris, William S.

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: March 2016 - Volume 19 - Issue 2 - p 92–96
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000251
LIPID METABOLISM AND THERAPY: Edited by Philip C. Calder and Richard J. Deckelbaum

Purpose of review This article examines the evidence for and against establishing a target level of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in breast milk.

Recent findings Two target levels for milk DHA have been recently proposed. One (∼0.3% of milk fatty acids) was based on milk DHA levels achieved in women consuming the amount of DHA recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for pregnant and lactating women (at least 200 mg DHA/day). Another (∼1.0%) was based on biomarker studies of populations with differing lifelong intakes of fish. Populations or research cohorts with milk DHA levels of 1.0% are associated with intakes that allow both the mother and infant to maintain relatively high DHA levels throughout lactation. Lower milk DHA levels may signal suboptimal maternal stores and possibly suboptimal infant intakes.

Summary Based on the current data, a reasonable milk DHA target appears to be approximately 0.3%, which is about the worldwide average. Although this may not be the ‘optimal’ level (which remains to be defined), it is clearly an improvement over the currently low milk DHA levels (∼0.2%) seen in many Western populations.

aOmegaQuant Analytics, LLC

bSanford School of Medicine – University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA

Correspondence to William S. Harris, PhD, OmegaQuant Analytics, 5009 W. 12th St., Suite 8, Sioux Falls, SD 57016, USA. Tel: +1 913 302 9433; e-mail:

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