Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women

Date:
June 9, 2012
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
Anthropologists have found high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in the breast milk of economically impoverished Amerindian woman as compared to women in the United States.

Working with researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, anthropologists at UC Santa Barbara have found high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in the breast milk of economically impoverished Amerindian woman as compared to women in the United States.

Related Articles


Their research appears in the current issue of the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition.

The study compared breast milk fatty acid composition in U.S. and Tsimane women. The Tsimane live in Amazonian Bolivia, and eat a diet consisting primarily of locally grown staple crops, wild game, and freshwater fish. Samples of Tsimane mothers' milk contained significantly higher percentages of the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is crucial for infant cognitive and visual development.

Additionally, the percentages of DHA in breast milk did not significantly decrease across the first two years postpartum, the period during which infant brains experience peak growth and maximal uptake of DHA. This was also true for the U.S. women, and the study suggests that extended breastfeeding by both U.S. and Tsimane mothers may provide infants with a constant source of DHA during the critical period of brain development.

"The fatty acid composition of breast milk varies with the fatty acid composition of a mother's diet and fat stores. Ancestral humans likely consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in equal proportions," said Melanie Martin, a doctoral student in UCSB's Department of Anthropology, and the study's lead researcher. "Tsimane mothers' omega-6 to omega-3 ratios were four to one, much closer to the ancestral estimates than observed in U.S. women."

Unfortunately, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in industrialized diets varies from 10 to 1 to as high as 20 to 1. This is most likely due to the absence of fresh fish, and regular consumption of processed foods and vegetable oils rich in linoleic acid (an omega-6), as well as trans fats. These high levels of omega-6 have been linked to increased risks of obesity, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease, and interfere with the synthesis of DHA and other omega-3 fatty acids.

"The Tsimane mothers' average milk DHA percentage was 400 percent higher than that of the Cincinnati mothers, while their average percentages of linoleic and trans fatty acids were 84 percent and 260 percent lower, respectively," said Martin. "Despite living in economically impoverished conditions, Tsimane mothers produce breast milk that has more balanced and potentially beneficial fatty acid composition as compared to milk from U.S. mothers."

The study comes in the wake of the May 21 issue of Time magazine, which reignited debate over the appropriate age at which a child should top nursing. "Buzz about the recent Time magazine cover missed the point," noted Steven Gaulin, professor of anthropology at UCSB, and one of the study's co-authors. "The American diet is eroding one of the most important benefits breast milk can provide -- fats that are critical to infant brain development. It's not surprising that, among developed nations, American children are last on international tests of math and science."

The study's findings highlight important questions about infant formula, the fatty acid content of which is based on the breast milk of U.S. mothers. "The study suggests that standards of fatty acid composition for infant formulas should be derived from populations such as the Tsimane," Martin explained. "And nutritional recommendations for infants should account for the prolonged requirements of fatty acids that breast milk naturally provides."

Also contributing to the study was Michael Gurven, professor of anthropology at UCSB.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Melanie A. Martin, William D. Lassek, Steven J.C. Gaulin, Rhobert W. Evans, Jessica G. Woo, Sheela R. Geraghty, Barbara S. Davidson, Ardythe L. Morrow, Hillard S. Kaplan, Michael D. Gurven. Fatty acid composition in the mature milk of Bolivian forager-horticulturalists: controlled comparisons with a US sample. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 2012; 8 (3): 404 DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2012.00412.x

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120609152436.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2012, June 9). Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120609152436.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120609152436.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

WHO: Millions of Ebola Vaccine Doses by 2015

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) The World Health Organization said on Friday that millions of doses of two experimental Ebola vaccines could be ready for use in 2015 and five more experimental vaccines would start being tested in March. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

Doctor in NYC Quarantined With Ebola

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus. He's quarantined in a hospital. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins