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French Mothers’ Milk Deficient in DHA Contains Phospholipid Species of Potential Interest for Infant Development

Garcia, Cyrielle*; Millet, Véronique; Coste, Thierry Charles*; Mimoun, Myriam*; Ridet, Audrey*; Antona, Claudine*; Simeoni, Umberto; Armand, Martine*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: August 2011 - Volume 53 - Issue 2 - p 206–212
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e318216f1d0
Original Articles: Hepatologyand Nutrition

Objectives: An insufficient human milk docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) level was reported worldwide, which leads to the question of the sufficiency of the DHA supply for infant development in the French Mediterranean area. Also, among milk lipids, phospholipids may be of high potential interest for infant brain development, being a specific vector of DHA and providing plasmalogens. We aimed to estimate the consumption of such milk compounds by preterm and term infants.

Materials and Methods: Milk samples from 22 lactating French women living in a port city, Marseille, were collected in a neonatology department from a single full-breast expression using an electric pump. Amounts of triglycerides, total phospholipids and plasmalogens, and fatty acid profile were determined by gas chromatography, and cholesterol by enzymatic assay.

Results: Depending on the infant dietary guidelines we referred to, 46% or 82% of milk samples were below the recommended DHA level (0.4% or 0.7%), and a majority exhibited high linoleic acid/α-linolenic acid and n-6/n-3 ratios, probably resulting from high linoleic acid together with low fish and seafood products consumption. DHA carried by phospholipids in a majority of specimens met the requirements for brain development for term but not for premature infants. Milk plasmalogen levels ranged from 3.4 to 39.2 mg/L.

Conclusions: Our results support the recommendation of DHA supplementation to French mothers living in a Mediterranean port city, and of decreased linoleic acid intake, to reach optimal milk composition for infant health. DHA-containing phospholipids including plasmalogen species may represent important bioactive human milk compounds.

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*INSERM, U476 “Nutrition Humaine et Lipides,” Marseille, F-13385 France, INRA, UMR1260, “Nutriments Lipidiques et Prévention des Maladies Métaboliques,” Marseille, F-13385 France, Université de la Méditerranée Aix-Marseille 2, Faculté de Médecine, IPHM-IFR 125, Marseille, F-13385 France

Division of Neonatology, Hôpital de la Conception, AP-HM, Marseille, France.

Address correspondence and reprint request to Martine Armand, PhD, INSERM Research Scientist, UMR INSERM Unité 476/INRA 1260/Université de la Méditerranée, Faculté de Médecine de la Timone, 27 Boulevard Jean Moulin, F-13385 Marseille cedex 05, France (e-mail:

Received 28 June, 2010

Accepted 21 February, 2011

This work was supported by a grant from the Institut Benjamin Delessert (M.A.), the Conseil Régional Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Application Santé des Lipides, A.S.L. (thesis of C.G.).

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

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Copyright 2011 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN