Omnivore and vegetarian nursing moms’ milk composition and nutritional status were studied 2023

A new Nutrients Journal study examined breast milk dietary consumption, nutritional status, and nutritional composition from omnivorous diet-abiding milk donors (donors) and vegetarian/vegan lactating mothers (veg).


The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continuing after introducing supplementary meals for two years. Preterm newborns prefer human donor milk (DHM) when mother milk is unavailable.

Western reproductive-age women are increasingly eating vegetarian diets. These ladies may not provide milk, and their milk composition is unknown.

DHM’s nutritional content and variables affecting it must be assessed since premature newborns need more nutrients.

Study details

This cross-sectional and observational study compared donor DHM breast milk nutritional content to Spanish vegetarian/vegan moms.

From August 2017 to February 2020, pediatric primary care facilities, online communities, websites, and food shops recruited participants.

The donor group was omnivore diet consumers with full-term infants who gave milk 1.0 times in the preceding two months to the Regional Human Milk Bank (RHMB), whereas the veg group was healthy vegan/vegetarian women breastfeeding for 3.0 weeks postpartum.

For fatty acid (FA) profiles and mineral and vitamin content, 92 donor and 20 vegan group subjects provided blood, urine, and milk samples.

The researchers also examined polar, neutral, triacylglycerol, and relative phospholipid profiles in human milk from sample populations of the two groups. 5.0-day diet records with nutritional supplements analyzed diets.

FFQs, sociodemographic, and health surveys were also completed by individuals.

Maternal age, nationality, employment, education, dietary exclusions in the previous two years, iodized salt intake, supplementations, tobacco and alcohol intake, physical activity, medical history, medications, children, pregnancy, delivery, lactation, pre-pregnancy weight, and weight gain during pregnancy were collected.

Mothers also reported newborn sex, medical history, and somatometric characteristics. Complutense University’s nutrition department examined nutrient and calorie consumption in 2010 using Food Composition Tables.

Healthy Eating Index (HEI) values were calculated using the US agriculture department’s Food Data Central database and Spain’s Food Composition Database.

The team compared regular nutrient consumption to IOM and EFSA dietary reference intake (DRI) values. The FAO and IOM examined PUFA consumption.


Veg vs donor persons consumed 0.1 versus 0.4 grams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) day, serological DHA proportions were 0.4 versus 0.8%, and milk DHA proportions were 0.2 versus 0.3%.

Milk had 546 vs 483 pM vitamin B12. Vegetarians had 27.0% milk phosphatidylcholine and donors 31.0%. Iodine in milk was 126.0 and 159.0 mcg/liter. PL distribution and fatty acid profiles differed most.

Vegetarians ingested 33% less saturated fat, trans-fats, and cholesterol. Veg milk contained more unsaturated FA and less saturated and trans-fats. Vegetarians had higher serological HDL levels.

Red blood cells and serum had far less plasmalogen than donor milk. Vegetarians had lower omega-3 and EPA/DHA consumption than n-6 FA.

The DHA concentration in veg milk (0.2% versus 0.3%, respectively) was <50% of donor milk (0.3%), which did not meet nutritional guidelines.

Vegetarian erythrocytes, milk, and serum had a higher n-6/n-3 ratio (9.90 versus 7.80). The total lipids of veg group-breastfed neonates had higher LA and lower DHA than those of the donor group.

Sphingomyelin comprised >40% of breast milk’s polar lipids. Veg moms’ milk included 27.0% phosphatidylcholine and 31.0% phosphatidylethanolamine.

85.0% of veg moms supplemented with vitamin B12, averaging 312.0 mcg daily, and their serological levels were equivalent to donor people.

Veg milk has more vitamin B12. 14 (70.0%) vegetarians took 2,000 mcg of B12 weekly, as recommended by the American Dietetic Association.

Vegetarians have 50% of donor nicotinamide. Veg people had higher vitamin E intakes but lower milk or serological α-tocopherol levels than donors. Veg milk had less selenium, phosphorus, and iodine.


Veg milk had much less DHA than donor milk, according to the research. As with cyanocobalamin, better diets and supplementation can close the difference.

Vegetarian/vegan milk donors may benefit from DHA supplementation. For vegetarian/vegan moms who desire to give milk, linolenic acid-rich diets like linseed/flaxseed oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, oleate-rich meals, and low-LA sunflower oils may be beneficial.

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