Fatty acid composition of mature human milk of rural Egyptian and American women was determined by gas-liquid chromatography. Milk of Egyptian women contained significantly higher percentages of capric, lauric, myristic, lionleic and arachidonic acids, saturated fatty acids (SFA), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Conversely, milk of American women contained higher percentages of stearic and oleic acids, total unsaturated fatty acids, and monounsaturated fatty acids. The PUFA:SFA ratio in Egyptian samples was 0.54 ± 0.18 compared to 0.47 ± 0.22 in American samples. Increased percentages of medium-chain SFA in Egyptian milk suggested increased mammary gland lipid synthesis. Analysis of Egyptian diets indicated high-carbohydrate and low-fat intakes may have resulted in limited availability and incorporation of dietary fatty acids into milk triglycerides. Thus, increased percentages of medium-chain SFA observed in Egyptian milk may reflect mammary gland synthesis in an attempt to maintain lipid concentrations in milk.
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