Tags: breast | milk | immune | baby

Breast Milk Primes Babies’ Immune Systems

Thursday, 30 Aug 2012 01:29 PM


Health experts have long recommended breast feeding over bottled formula, but new research out of Duke University provides yet another reason for moms to go the natural route: Mother’s milk fosters the growth of healthy bacteria in a newborn's intestinal tract that aid nutrient absorption and boost the immune system.
The findings, published in the journal Current Nutrition & Food Science, may explain why breast milk, but not formula, helps protect babies against infections and illnesses.
"This study is the first we know of that examines the effects of infant nutrition on the way that bacteria grow, providing insight to the mechanisms underlying the benefits of breast feeding over formula feeding for newborns," said lead researcher William Parker. "Only breast milk appears to promote a healthy colonization of beneficial biofilms, and these insights suggest there may be potential approaches for developing substitutes that more closely mimic those benefits in cases where breast milk cannot be provided."
Many studies have shown mother’ milk lowers the incidence of diarrhea, influenza and respiratory infections during infancy, and cuts the risk of allergies, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses later in life. Scientific research has also shown intestinal flora plays an important role in health. The new Duke study adds to the evidence, underscoring how and why an infant's early diet can affect this beneficial microbial universe.
For the study, Duke researchers grew bacteria in samples of infant formulas, cow's milk and breast milk. They also tested a purified form of an antibody called secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA), which is abundant in breast milk, that helps establish an infant's immune system.
The infant formulas, the milk products and the SIgA were incubated with two beneficial strains bacteria that occur naturally in the gut. Within minutes, the bacteria began multiplying in all of the specimens, but in breast milk, they stuck together to form biofilms – thin layers of bacteria that serve as a protective shield against pathogens and infections.
"Knowing how breast milk conveys its benefits could help in the development of infant formulas that better mimic nature," Parker said. "This could have a long-lasting effect on the health of infants who, for many reasons, may not get mother's milk."
"This study adds even more weight to an already large body of evidence that breast milk is the most nutritious way to feed a baby whenever possible," said Dr. Gabriela M. Maradiaga Panayotti, co-director of the newborn nursery for Duke Children's and Duke Primary Care. "We know that babies who receive breast milk have better outcomes in many ways, and mother who breast feed also have improved health outcomes, including decreased risks of cancer. Whenever possible, promoting breast feeding is the absolute best option for mom and baby."


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Mother’s milk fosters the growth of healthy bacteria in a newborn's gut that boost the immune system.
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2012-29-30
Thursday, 30 Aug 2012 01:29 PM
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