Free Fatty Acid Profile Final Report

During this summer, I was lucky enough to conduct research alongside my professor and mentor, Dr. Mojica. My research consisted of compiling multiple existing studies on breast milk fatty acid profiles and comparing them. Essentially, my comparative research aimed to examine not only breast milk composition, but also why and how it ranges.

My analysis compared studies based on where they were conducted (location), when they took place (year), what sample of breast milk was used and how it was obtained (how many women, their health, what period of lactation, how old the mothers are), fat content (g/mL), free fatty acids (specifically arachidonic acid, linoleic acid, and docohexaanoic acid), how the sample was prepared, and what instrument was used to analyze the breast milk composition. Throughout the course of the research, I began to analyze different aspects of the studies, as well, such as breast milk nutritional value compared to formula value, and the benefits of breast feeding.

My research ranged widely in terms of location, year, instruments used, and sample preparation. Locations ranged from here at home, the United States of America, to the northeast region of China, Iran, Germany, and Poland. In terms of year the study was conducted, I originally wanted to only used recent studies, therefore obtaining research that is most modern and uses the most efficient and accurate technology. However, as I emerged myself deeper into my research, I began to feel obligated and interested in including older studies. This way, I can see data results which will inform me how and if breast milk fatty acid profile analysis has changed over the decades. Due to this, my oldest study was from 1981. With my most recent study being originally published in 2016, my comparative analysis spanned 35 years. As predicted, technology to analyze breast milk has changed. While the same technology was used, the advancement in that technology was apartment. While chromatography was the most common instrument used across the decades, the 1981 study was not able to analyze and pick out nearly as many fatty acids as modern day chromatography. In terms of sample preparation, the most common methods were the FAME method, creamatocrit method, and Folch method.

After my comparative analysis, I was able to clearly see that fat content makes up the majority of breast milk. This is very important, as these are healthy fats that are necessary to the growth of infants. Fat content in breast milk ranges from 1.63-3.19 grams per milliliter depending on where the mother is in her lactation. Fat content in breast milk changes during the span of a women’s lactation. Despite this, all studies were conclusive in the amount of fat content analyzed in breast milk samples. Additional research saw that over the past century, fat content in breast milk has actually increased. This is due to diets which include more healthy fat staples, such as less processed vegetable oil. Fatty acid profiles ranged across my findings, perhaps due to the fact that all my research was collected from different locations, years, and used different sample obtainment and analysis methods. However, a range in fatty acids may also be due to the fact that the different studies use different units of analysis. Some studies gave fatty acid profile percents of breast milk, others gave fatty acid ranges depending on where a mother was in lactation (some studies took one initial sample to analyze, others analyzed the change in women’s breast milk over time of breast feeding, etc.).

Thus far, I have achieved many accomplishments. I am extremely proud of the fact that I was able to carry out research that was important to me. This process increased my confidence in the lab and in the field of science. I was able to read and understand professional reports, analyze them, and then compare them. I am also thankful for this opportunity, which turned my summer into a four-month long adventure. Not to mention, this research has given me a great conversation starter.

From my involvement in this program, I have been able to transform my image of myself. Before this research, I was a student in the science department of Pace. Now, I am a limitless researcher who has endless support from my mentor, Dr. Mojica, as well as a newfound confidence not only in myself, but additionally in the amount of incredible opportunities Pace offers. I am truly grateful for Dr. Mojica for trusting me with this great task, providing support, and leading me to this deeply rewarding research program. I am appreciative to Pace for this grant, which has encouraged and motivated me to keep perusing science, now with more excitement and drive then I thought was possible.

Free Fatty Acid Profiles of Milk Products (II)

Since the start of my research, I have since compiled multiple, ranging studies, all of which analyzed the composition of breast milk with regards to fat content. When I started the research, I did not expect to compare anything other than data and results. However, this study grew as I started to compare studies from different decades, countries, and additional information, such as human breast milk nutrients compared to formula nutrients. I even got as far as studying how and why human breast milk is composed the way it is and the long-term effects on the newborn consuming the milk.

A condensed summary can say that human breast milk is composed mostly of fat, though the fat content in milk decreases as time goes on. Human breast milk is more nutrient and beneficial to babies then formula milk. However, over the past few decades, formula milk has been changed to more closely resemble the compositional makeup of breast milk, which in turn has resulted in a more nutritious formula milk. Breast milk across different countries does vary, and this can be attributed to the diets of different countries. Over decades in the same country, human breast milk has also changed. For example, in the United States, human breast milk has become more dense in fats and fatty acids, which is great. This increase in healthy fat content of breast milk can be attributed to the addition of and more natural processing of vegetable oil and other healthy fat containing foods and staples. In terms of infants themselves, consumption of breast milk shows a stronger immune system compared to consumption of formula milk. Breast milk contains several immune system-strengthening components which help infants grow, as well as decrease the risk of conditions such as asthma. The one consistent aspect of most of the studies conducted are the methods used to collect and analyze the breast milk samples: chromatography. In this common method, the breast milk is separated so that the individual components of the milk can be studied.

As I collected data, many questions arose. For instance, I saw very dramatic differences in free fatty acid profiles across studies that ranged both by decade, location, and methods of data collection. I was able to justify these differences through analysis of external factors, such as technology evolution, different diet and environmental conditions (pollutants, air quality, etc.). I also had questions about breast milk composition, such as how many fatty acids are present, which was answered through research.

I experienced challenges when comparing data from different experiments. This is because each research paper was written differently, therefore it become somewhat difficult to find consistent data that could be comparable. For example, some papers compared four fatty acids, and another paper compared four different fatty acids. This was overcome by finding and using the data from multiple papers. That way, there are no discrepancies in data.

The successes I experienced came as I began to gain confidence in research paper analysis. As I read more, I learned about more techniques, methods, and overall facts. My vocabulary increased, as well, and since I want to be an OBGYN, knowledge in this area is definitely a plus.

As a premed student hoping to become an OBGYN, this research was deeply intriguing and exciting for me. I was able to gather a tremendous amount of information on topics that are both truly interesting to me as well as high value considering the line of work I hope to enter. Learning about the composition of breast milk and how it effects newborns gave me insights into the importance of breast feeding, and just as importantly, eating healthy foods while pregnant and during lactation. I additionally learned a great deal about research methods, ethical collection of data, and how to write a research paper. I knew very little about chromatography before this research, as well as other methods such as the FAME, Folch, and Creamatocrit methods. Overall, this research was truly empowering, as I was able to obtain knowledge in a field I’m passionate about while also gaining confidence in research processes.

Free Fatty Acid Profiles of Milk Products

Through the use of several techniques, Dr. Mojica and I will analyze the compositional components of breast milk. In this research project, Free Fatty Acid Profiles of Milk Products, I will first be conducting research on a variety of databases to compile current publications on breast milk samples. This will allow me to perform a comparative analysis of already existing files, which will allow me to form stronger hypothesis when I formally conduct my own hands-on research. By gathering data that already exists, I will be able to analyze how breast milk samples differ by year (when the data was collected), sample size and group, location (which country the milk samples were collected), fat content, sample preparation, and instrument. This collection of data will allow me to shape how I conduct my own breast milk analysis, and what methods appear to be the most efficient in reaching thorough, accurate profiles.

After collecting multiple, varying publications, I will then conduct my own experiment on breast milk. I will use breast milk samples and machinery in the chemistry department to analyze free fatty acid profiles. Using the publications I collected as a framework and guide for my own experiment, I will analyze the same factors that I observed in the publications, then compare my findings against the other compiled publications. I will analyze how the results differ, and why, whether it be due to difference in location, experimental error, or other factors.

From this project, I hope to grasp a stronger understanding of how research is conducted, proper methods to use in different circumstances, and expand my knowledge on how comparative studies function. In terms of my own research, I aim to better understand breast milk composition in relation to outside factors.

All in all, I will use comparative analysis, self-conducted experimentation, and gathering of similar research publications to conduct my research with Dr. Mojica on free fatty acid profiles of breast milk.