Women of childbearing age in Western societies are increasingly adopting vegetarian diets. These women are sometimes rejected as milk donors, but little about the composition of their milk is known.
The present study aimed to compare the intake, nutritional status, and nutritional composition of human milk from omnivore human milk donors (Donors) and vegetarian/vegan lactating mothers (Veg).
Milk, blood, and urine samples from 92 Donors and 20 Veg were used to determine their fatty acid profiles, as well as vitamins and minerals. In a representative sample of both groups, we also determined the lipid class profile as a distribution of neutral and polar lipids, the molecular species of triacylglycerols, and the relative composition of phospholipids in their milk. A dietary assessment was conducted with a five-day dietary record (while considering the intake of supplements).
We highlight the following results, expressed as the mean (SE), for the Veg vs. Donors:
(1) Their docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) intake was 0.11 (0.03) vs. 0.38 (0.03) g/day; the plasma DHA was 0.37 (0.07) vs. 0.83 (0.06)%; and the milk DHA was 0.15 (0.04) vs. 0.33 (0.02)%.
(2) Their milk B12 levels were 545.69 (20.49) vs. 482.89 (4.11) pM; 85% of the Veg reported taking B12 supplements (mean dose: 312.1 mcg/day); and the Veg group showed no differences with Donors in terms of total daily intake or plasma B12.
(3) Their milk phosphatidylcholine levels were 26.88 (0.67) vs. 30.55 (1.10)%.
(4) Their milk iodine levels were 126.42 (13.37) vs. 159.22 (5.13) mcg/L.
In conclusion, the Vegs’ milk was shown to be different from the Donors’ milk, mainly due to its low DHA content, which is concerning. However, raising awareness and ensuring proper supplementation could bridge this gap, as has already been achieved for cobalamin.
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