Lactation biologists have long known that human milk synthesis varies across and within mothers. In the search for sources of this variation, the spotlight has been primarily directed at maternal factors. But it takes two to nurse, and human infants are not simply passive consumers of milk. Infant characteristics, from low birth weight to illness, are known to affect milk synthesis, primarily through an increase in the very ingredients needed to improve infant health, growth, or cognitive development. Human milk appears to be tailored to specific infant needs—one milk does not fit all.
Mothers transmit more than genes to their offspring. Some intergenerational maternal influences can impact newborns through their ingestion of milk, which can enhance their chances of optimal growth and survival. Currently, the accepted opinion is that most of these maternal influences do not persist beyond weaning. However, there are scattered and tantalizing pieces of evidence suggesting there may be some exceptions to acceptance of that opinion.
Diet plays a major role in influencing cardiovascular health. For instance, increased dairy consumption is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure. On the other hand, an increase in dietary sodium—consumed primarily as salt—is associated with increased blood pressure and higher cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Ask an average citizen how much fatty food they eat, and the response is likely to be a sugar-coated version of the truth. Many studies that search for links between dietary habits and complex diseases face this problem. But what if there were particular molecules that hang around in blood, which could be used to diagnose how much of a relevant foodstuff an individual typically consumes? It would mean that the disease risks attached to eating the food could be stated with greater certainty. This is exactly what Mohammad Yakoob of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues have identified in three fatty acid constituents of dairy products. Analyzing measurements of levels of these fatty acids in the blood of thousands of people enrolled in prospective studies has led these researchers to conclude that dairy fats reduce the risk of diabetes.
In the first hours and days after a human baby is born, mothers aren’t producing the white biofluid that typically comes to mind when we think about milk. They synthesize a yellowish milk known as colostrum or “pre-milk.” Colostrum is the first substance human infants are adapted to consume, and despite being low in fat, colostrum plays many roles in the developing neonate. Historically and cross-culturally, colostrum was viewed very differently than it is amongst industrialized populations today.
Immune cells are strange beasts. Their favorite occupation, like a child nearing the end of a long summer vacation, is just hanging around looking for something to do. Usually, they just cruise the body in the blood, sometimes detouring into tissues seemingly just because they can. All is good.
Unadulterated, fresh, and straight from the breast, experts agree that human milk is the best option for healthy infants. Not only does it provide the macronutrients essential to fuel and build young bodies, it actively stops infants from getting sick by dosing them with immunoglobulins and sugars that are indigestible by humans. A recent review offers a summary aimed at clinicians about how human milk may be modified to cater for the particular needs of pre-term and sick infants.
They say time heals all wounds. But can milk help those wounds heal faster? Noting milk’s ability to stimulate and support the development of an infant’s immune system, researchers posed the simple, but elegant, hypothesis that milk could accelerate the healing process by enhancing the body’s immune response.
Reaping the rewards of the genomic revolution in selective breeding in of dairy cows requires an informed and engaged dairy farmer response. A study published in December 2016 from a Danish group of dairy scientists reports that farmers rank health and management qualities above production traits in their cows. However, this ranking differs depending on whether the farmer is classified as organic or conventional.
The World Health Organization considers someone with more than a 3% chance of contracting HIV in the next year to have a “substantial” risk of infection. This is important because it is the cut-off for which the WHO recommends taking anti-retroviral drugs, like tenofovir, to reduce the odds of infection. Breastfeeding women in sub-Saharan Africa easily meet this risk threshold. But medical professionals are discouraged from offering the drug to these women because of WHO warning labels about potential adverse reactions in nursing infants. That advice may now change, paving the way for many more at-risk women to receive HIV prophylaxis. A new study shows that when infants consume human milk from a woman taking tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine, they are exposed to extremely low levels of The World Health Organization considers someone with more than a 3% chance of contracting HIV in the next year to have a “substantial” risk of infection. This is important because it is the cut-off for which the WHO recommends taking anti-retroviral drugs, like tenofovir, to reduce the odds of infection. A new study shows that when infants consume human milk from a woman taking tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine, they are exposed to extremely low levels of either drug.drug. Therefore, the infants’ likelihood of experiencing adverse reactions is virtually non-existent.