In a study published in 2018, researchers compared the amounts and types of different fats in breast milk from 26 vegan, 22 vegetarian, and 26 non-vegetarian women in the United States.
Despite half of the non-vegetarians eating fish sometimes or often, the concentration of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA was not significantly different between the groups.
About a quarter of the vegan women said that they used a DHA/EPA supplement although we don’t know how often or how much DHA/EPA it provided. Using a supplement was associated with a higher milk DHA level.
Older studies suggest that women whose diets are higher in saturated or trans fats will have a higher concentration of these fats in their breast milk, which is generally considered less healthy than unsaturated fats. This study had similar findings—vegans, who we’d expect to have a diet lower in saturated and trans fats had the lowest percentage of these fats in their milk. The vegans’ milk had the highest percentage of unsaturated fat—again, probably reflecting their diets.
The vegans’ milk was also higher in the essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid.
See our section on Daily Needs for information on getting adequate omega-3 fats on a vegan diet.
1. Perrin MT, Pawlak R, Dean LL, Christis A, Friend L. A cross-sectional study of fatty acids and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in human milk from lactating women following vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore diets. Eur J Nutr. 2018 Jul 26. [Epub ahead of print]