Lipids and Gut Health in the first 1000 days

Fats (also called lipids) are a key component of infants’ and children’s diets and are particularly important during the first years of life. Fat has an important role in providing energy for the body’s functions, needs and growth.
Breast milk, which provides integral nutrition during babies’ first 6 months of life, contains around 4g of fat per 100 ml. The primary lipids found in breastmilk are triglycerides which make up approximately 98% of breast milk fat. These lipids provide essential fatty acids – both saturated and unsaturated – that our bodies cannot produce otherwise. The saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids in breast milk fat provide around 40 to 60% of newborns’ energy needs in the first 6 months. These dietary fats are essential for body growth since they act as lipid building blocks for all cells in our bodies. Therefore, they are necessary for the growth and development of all organs and tissues, including skin and hair. Fat is also crucial during infancy and childhood to ensure optimal brain function and healthy development, as it is a major constituent of the nervous system and brain.
Furthermore, fat plays an essential role in our intestine, first to assist the digestion of key nutrients like vitamins, to support intestinal development, and foster the establishment of a healthy gut microbiome and intestinal immune system.

Babies’ and toddlers’ dietary fat requirements

The European Food Safety Authority reviewed the dietary fat requirements and established that just after birth, babies need to get 40% of their energy from fats. With the introduction of complementary feeding, fat intake can gradually be reduced to 20-35% of energy from 4 years old onwards.

Human milk fat composition is influenced by the mother’s diet 

Human milk lipid content and composition vary greatly with the mother’s diet. An exclusively vegetarian mother will have milk richer in Omega 6 fatty acids (for example, linoleic acid or LA), whereas Eskimo women, who mainly consume marine foods, will produce milk richer in Omega 3 fatty acids (for example, alpha-linolenic or ALA, eicosapentaenoic or EPA and docosahexaenoic or DHA).
It is known that about 75% of linoleic acid in breast milk comes directly from the mother’s diet, and about 30% is derived from the mother’s body’s fat stores which changes during lactation. Another major lipid component of human milk -medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) – is also strongly influenced by the number of carbohydrates and fat in the maternal diet.

Breast milk lipids and fatty acids are important for intestinal development, digestion and immunity 


REFERENCES 

1. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products N, Allergies. Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for Fats, Including Saturated Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Monounsaturated Fatty Acids, Trans Fatty Acids, and Cholesterol. EFSA Journal (2010) 8(3):1461. doi: https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1461

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5. Ramiro-Cortijo D, Singh P, Liu Y, Medina-Morales E, Yakah W, Freedman SD, et al. Breast Milk Lipids and Fatty Acids in Regulating Neonatal Intestinal Development and Protecting against Intestinal Injury. Nutrients (2020) 12(2). Epub 20200219. doi: 10.3390/nu12020534. 

6. Lee H, Padhi E, Hasegawa Y, Larke J, Parenti M, Wang A, et al. Compositional Dynamics of the Milk Fat Globule and Its Role in Infant Development. Front Pediatr (2018) 6:313. Epub 20181024. doi: 10.3389/fped.2018.00313. 

7. Boudry G, Charton E, Le Huerou-Luron I, Ferret-Bernard S, Le Gall S, Even S, et al. The Relationship between Breast Milk Components and the Infant Gut Microbiota. Front Nutr (2021) 8:629740. Epub 20210322. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.629740.