Changes in the fatty acid content of Egyptian human milk across the lactation stages and in comparison with Chinese human milk


The standard food for feeding babies is breast milk (BM). There is a growing interest in research related to the composition and positional distribution of fatty acids (FAs) in BM due to their role as the primary source of energy, essential FAs, and other physiological functions in the body. The purpose of this study was to assess the extent of changes in FAs content of the BM of Egyptian women over the three lactation stages with a comparison to their Chinese counterparts. FAs contents of 45 BM samples obtained from healthy Egyptian women during the three stages of lactation were analyzed using gas chromatography. The results showed that the total saturated FAs formed about 50% of the total FAs over lactation stages. The poly-unsaturated FAs were significantly different in the three stages of lactation; (20.63%) colostrum, (15.21%) transitional, and (25.23%) mature of the total FAs. Despite some fluctuations, the total sn-2 proportion of the n-6/n-3 ratio was nearly stable during lactation. The BM of Egyptian women had a slightly higher proportion of palmitic, myristic acids and a ratio of n-6/n-3. Conversely, Chinese women’s BM has a significantly higher proportion of oleic, nervonic as well as arachidonic, and docosahexaenoic acids. Further study should be conducted to evaluate the FAs composition of some commercial infant formulas available in Egypt.

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Breast milk


Fatty acids


Arachidonic acid


Docosahexaenoic acid


Alpha-linolenic acid


Linoleic acid


Gas chromatography




Partial least squares discriminant analysis


Saturated fatty acids


Mono-unsaturated fatty acids


Poly-unsaturated fatty acids


Short-chain fatty acids


Medium-chain fatty acids


Long-chain fatty acids


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This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 31701558), the Young Elite Scientists Sponsorship Program by CAST (Grant number 2017QNRC001), and the Overseas Expertise Introduction Project for Discipline Innovation (111 Project, B90719028).

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Correspondence to Wei Wei or Xingguo Wang.

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The experiments were approved by the Ethics Committee of Jiangnan University (JN no. 2121203-0120).

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Bakry, I.A., Korma, S.A., Wei, W. et al. Changes in the fatty acid content of Egyptian human milk across the lactation stages and in comparison with Chinese human milk. Eur Food Res Technol (2021).

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  • Breast milk
  • Egyptian women
  • Chinese women
  • Fatty acids
  • Sn-2 fatty acids
  • Maternal diet