Aim: The suckling neonates and infants are reliant primarily on the mother for optimal supply of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The richest source of preformed DHA is cold-water oily fish. Although there is paucity of data, existing evidence suggest women with restricted access to these foods have low or marginal DHA status. The aim of the study was to investigate milk fatty acids of Sudanese mothers whose traditional diet is high in carbohydrate and low in fat and gain some insight into the provision of DHA to the suckling offspring.
Methods: Colostrum (n = 26), transitional (n = 20) and mature (n = 14) milk samples were obtained from Northern Sudanese women (NSW) recruited prior to delivery from Ibrahim Malik and Khartoum Teaching Hospitals.
Results: The arachidonic acid content of the colostrum (0.87 ± 0.28%) and transitional (0.89 ± 0.29%) and mature (0.48 ± 0.12%) milk of the NSW were broadly comparable with published international values. In contrast, the DHA level (colostrum 0.13 ± 0.07%, transitional 0.13 ± 0.06% and mature milk 0.06 ± 0.05%) was very low.
Conclusion: The study reveals breast milk of NSW, whose traditional diet is almost devoid of fish and fish products, is unlikely to provide sufficient DHA to support optimal postnatal neuro-visual development.