Breast milk levels of zinc and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and growth of healthy Chinese infants

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Abstract

Aim

To examine the concentrations of zinc and ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-6 PUFAs) in breast milk, the impact of zinc on ω-6 PUFA metabolism, and the growth rate of infants.

Methods

Forty-one mother-term infant pairs from a rural area of northern Beijing, China, who were 1 month (n = 18, group I) and 3 months (n = 23, group II) old and exclusively breastfed, were studied. The dietary records and the concentrations of zinc and ω-6 PUFAs in the milk of lactating women and the increase in weight and length of their infants during 1 and 3 postnatal months were analysed.

Results

The dietary intakes of mothers in the two groups were the same, i.e. high in carbohydrate and low in fat, protein and energy. The maternal zinc intake was 7.5mg/d and thus reached only 34.6% of the current Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI). The levels of zinc and arachidonic acid (AA, C20:4 ω-6) in the milk of group I were significantly higher than those in group II. Furthermore, significant positive correlations were found between the concentrations of zinc and AA in the breast milk and between the level of milk AA and weight gain.

Conclusion

Zinc may be a co-factor and essential for essential fatty acids (EFA) metabolism. Thus suboptimal zinc intake may cause EFA imbalance. Further studies of Chinese rural mother-infant pairs are necessary to determine whether zinc supplementation should be recommended when lactation exceeds 3 months.

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