Anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women
Pictured are Michael Gurven, Steven Gaulin, and Melanie Martin. Credit: Rod Rolle
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. 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."
Provided by University of California - Santa Barbara
- Hazelnuts: New source of key fat for infant formula that's more like mother's milk May 23, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Intelligence in young children is not influenced by omega 3 fatty acid Jan 22, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may cause memory problems Feb 27, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Giving DHA supplements to breastfeeding mothers May 01, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Foods high in conjugated linoleic acids can enrich breast milk Jul 28, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
After studying noise in one French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans to determine whether or not noise levels exceeded municipal ordinances, Annette Hurley, PhD, Assistant Professor of Audiology at LSU Health Sciences Center ...
Health 4 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Young children who missed more than half of recommended well-child visits had up to twice the risk of hospitalization compared to children who attended most of their visits, according to a study published today in the American Jo ...
Health 18 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
The individualisation of drug treatments to support patients to self-manage their conditions is a concept that sits at the heart of policy, but a recent study in BMJ Open shows that there is no concrete defini ...
Health 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Fun in the summer often means kids spending time in the water, whether at a pool, the beach, a lake or river. A pediatric safety expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) stresses proper training ...
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A new way of interpreting information from a low-tech, age-old method used in pregnancy care is expected to more accurately identify potential health issues for mothers and babies.
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 1
Biological processes are generally based on events at the molecular and cellular level. To understand what happens in the course of infections, diseases or normal bodily functions, scientists would need to ...
19 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
The news about youth and diabetes keeps getting worse. The latest data from the national TODAY diabetes study shows that children who develop Type 2 diabetes are at high risk to develop heart, kidney and eye problems faster ...
17 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
In Parkinson's disease, the protein "alpha-synuclein" aggregates and accumulates within neurons. Specific areas of the brain become progressively affected as the disease develops and advances. The mechanism underlying this ...
16 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is effective and safe in Asian patients, according to early experience based on first results from a multicentre Asian registry reported at EuroPCR 2013.
14 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by researchers in the US has shown that an ancient virus can be modified to help in the fight against the simian immunodeficiency virus SIV, which is the equivalent in monkeys ...
2 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Regulating the distribution of power in neurons is done by a system that makes the national electric grid look simple by comparison. Each neuron has several thousand mitochondria confined ...
18 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (9) | 0 |