Navigation Links
UCSB anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) 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."


Contact: Andrea Estrada
University of California - Santa Barbara

Related biology news :

1. University of Tennessee anthropologists find American heads are getting larger
2. MIT research: Study finds room to store CO2 underground
3. Study finds circle hooks lower catch rate for offshore anglers
4. LSUHSC research finds HPV-related head & neck cancers rising, highest in middle-aged white men
5. Head and body lice appear to be the same species, genetic study finds
6. Study finds peoples niceness may reside in their genes
7. Large international study finds memory in adults impacted by versions of 4 genes
8. Improved loblolly pines better for the environment, study finds
9. NIST/UMass study finds evidence nanoparticles may increase plant DNA damage
10. As deadly cat disease spreads nationally, MU veterinarian finds effective treatment
11. Study finds cancer-fighting goodness in cholesterol
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
UCSB anthropologists finds high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Amerindian women
(Date:9/28/2015)... NEW YORK , Sept. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... rate, respiration rate and body temperature, is an ... signs can be indicators of deterioration in a ... the hospital, vital signs are typically taken during ... eight hours. If a patient deteriorates between these ...
(Date:9/24/2015)... NEW YORK , Sept. 24, 2015  EyeLock ... will be showcasing its award winning and latest technology ... Anaheim, California . EyeLock,s ... and security with unmatched biometric accuracy, making it the ... DNA.   EyeLock,s platform uses video technology to deliver a ...
(Date:9/10/2015)... Pursuant Health has collaborated with health ... interactive, image-based health risk assessment (HRA) optimized for ... unique assessment quantifies user results into an easily ... individual,s biological age based on personal health habits, ... kiosk. Comprised of age, gender, and ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/8/2015)... 2015  Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:  SRNE; Sorrento), ... cancer and associated pain, announced today that Dr. Henry Ji, ... at the Aegis Capital Corporation 2015 Growth Conference ... Corporation 2015 Growth ConferenceDate:Friday, October 9, 2015Time:10:00 to ... The Wynn in Las Vegas, NV , ...
(Date:10/8/2015)...  ATCC, the premier global biological materials resource and ... by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson,s Research ... and biotechnology organizations committed to speed a cure for ... , and more than 5 million worldwide, have ... , and more than 5 million worldwide, have ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... 8, 2015 Celemics, a global pioneer of ... North American market with the establishment of Celemics America, ... Europe , has secured itself in ... methodology and sample preparation for DNA sequencing and genetic ... and somatic genetic testing more accurately, quickly, and cost ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... Oregon , October 8, 2015 ... --> Global Biologics and Biosimilars industry ... a report "Global Biologics and Biosimilars Industry 2015 ... Analysis and Forecast" is a professional and depth ... industry . ) , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: