No Differences Noted in Vitamins C and E, Fatty Acid Content in Human Milk According to Infant Sex

Investigators assessed the relationship between infant sex and the concentrations of vitamin C, E, and fatty acids in human milk.

Vitamin C, E, and fatty acid (FA) content in human milk (HM) did not appear to differ in relation to infant sex, according to study results published in Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. These findings suggest that the antioxidant content of infant formula does not need to be sex-specific.

HM is considered to be an ideal nutrient for healthy, full-term infants. However, it is known that the content of some components of HM (lipids, proteins, electrolytes, and energy) are affected by the sex of the infant in certain populations. To date, there have been limited data on the relationship between infant sex and vitamin and FA concentrations in HM.

Investigators from Poland sought to determine the relationship between infant sex and the antioxidant vitamins C and E, and the fatty acid profile of HM. This cross-sectional study consisted of 152 healthy, non-smoking mothers of full-term newborns born in good clinical condition. Based on the sex of the infant, study participants were separated into 2 groups: mothers of girls (Group I; n=75) and mothers of boys (Group II; n=77). HM samples were obtained 30 days after delivery.

The investigators found that the study groups (female vs male infants) did not differ with regard to vitamin and FA content in HM. The only difference found was in gondoic acid concentration.

The researchers observed higher mean concentrations of gondoic acid (20:1; n-9) in the HM of the mothers of the female infants compared with the HM of the mothers of the male infants (0.63+0.18 in the milk of female infants vs 0.59+0.15 in the milk of male infants; P <.047).

This study had several weaknesses, including incomplete monitoring of HM sampling (total emptying of the breast) and the lack of diet surveillance during pregnancy and after delivery.

This investigation is considered the first study to explore the antioxidative properties and constituents of HM and their association with infant sex. The study authors concluded that there were no differences in the concentrations of vitamin C, E, and FAs in HM according to the sex of the infants. Additional studies based on a larger population are warranted.


Zagierski M, Krukowska A, Kawska K, Sznurkowska K, Martysiak-Zurowska D, Szlagatys-Sidorkiewicz A. No evidence for sex-specificity in vitamins C, E, and fatty acid content of human milk from healthy polish mothers. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2021;73(1):e20-e25. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000003136