subject: human milk

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

It has been quite an amazing year for milk-related anthropology research. First came a study in the fall of 2018 on barium levels in the molar of a 250,000 year old Neanderthal fossil that demonstrated the child was weaned between two and three years of age, similar to the age of weaning in modern human populations. Using the same methods on even more ancient teeth, a study published this summer found that australopithecines living 2 million years ago likely weaned one to two years later than modern humans. Then in September, an analysis of plaque on several 6,000-year-old human teeth from Great Britain provided the oldest direct evidence of human consumption of cow, sheep, and goat milk. And to end the year comes a study that combines the topics of weaning and dairy agriculture—organic residue analysis on 3,000-year-old ceramic artifacts suspected of being baby bottles found fatty acids unique to ruminant milk fats, demonstrating cow or sheep or goat milks were used as weaning foods for infants and young children after the advent of agriculture. Read More...

Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

The human newborn’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract is immature and heavily reliant on components from human milk to successfully adapt to the novel challenges of life outside of the uterus. Recent research has highlighted the important role of milk’s bioactive components in establishing a healthy gut microbiome. Starting life off with the right mix of bacteria in the GI tract is essential not only for the development of the gut but also for mucosal immunity. It is so essential, in fact, the gut microbiome has been referred to as an ancillary immune organ. Read More...

Antibody Type, Specificity, and Source Influence Their Survival in the Infant Gut

Antibody Type, Specificity, and Source Influence Their Survival in the Infant Gut

Maternal antibodies play an important role in protecting newborns from harmful pathogens. Antibodies known as immunoglobulins (Igs) are transferred from the mother’s placenta into the fetus, where they protect the infant while the infant’s immune system is still developing, Human milk also contains many different Igs, such as IgA, IgM, IgG, and secretory forms of IgA and IgM. Consuming human milk provides additional immune protection to infants and has been shown to reduce the risk of infectious diseases. Read More...

The Fifteen Lives of Mammary Cells

The Fifteen Lives of Mammary Cells

How do mammary cells change and gain the ability to make milk at each birth? Scientists, at present, only have fragmentary information and little detail about the hierarchy of mammary cells contributing to the lactation cycle beginning at each pregnancy. A cellular hierarchy is like a family tree. It shows the relationships between different types of cells i.e., who begat whom. Knowledge of cellular hierarchies in mammary tissue could help answer many difficult questions. Which cells (progenitor cells) give rise to the cells that make milk or cells that form part of the mammary tissue structure supporting lactation? How do mammary epithelial cells cease producing milk after weaning? Which mammary cells develop into breast cancer and why? Recently, a group of investigators produced a massive molecular resource that may help answer these and many other questions relating to mammary tissue function. Importantly, the investigators made the resource available to all scientists to maximize its potential for additional discoveries. Read More...

The Bitterness of the Maternal Diet Influences the Bitterness of Human Milk

The Bitterness of the Maternal Diet Influences the Bitterness of Human Milk

Human milk is known to provide a variety of nutrients that aid infants’ growth and development and are beneficial to their health. But as children grow a little older, they often don’t meet recommended dietary guidelines, particularly when it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables. Read More...

Human Milk and Saliva Synergize to Shape the Infant Oral Microbiome

Human Milk and Saliva Synergize to Shape the Infant Oral Microbiome

Parents of infants spend a good deal of time wiping up their baby’s drool but probably don’t give a second thought to the important ingredients that drool may contain. Lucky for them, a team of researchers from Australia happily collected and analyzed baby saliva in an effort to identify compounds that may influence the growth of bacterial communities in the infant’s mouth and, subsequently, the rest of their gastrointestinal tract. Read More...

Immune Factors in Human Milk Shaped by Mother’s Environment

Immune Factors in Human Milk Shaped by Mother’s Environment

Human milk may be a complex biological fluid, but many of the ingredients that make it so complex are influenced by culture. Milk fatty acids reflect the fat content of the mother’s diet, and milk microbes have been linked to the mother’s diet, antibiotic use, and psychological stress. Now, a new study reports that a mother’s subsistence strategy—that is, the way that mother’s community makes a living—affects the quantity of immune proteins in her milk. Whereas maternal antibiotic use is a novel cultural influence on milk composition, subsistence strategies have influenced the maternal pathogen experience, and likely shaped milk immune factors, throughout human evolutionary history. Read More...

Maternal Probiotic Consumption Affects the Oligosaccharides in Mother’s Milk

Maternal Probiotic Consumption Affects the Oligosaccharides in Mother’s Milk

These days, the health-giving properties of human milk oligosaccharides, or HMOs, are much appreciated. The medium-length sugars, which are the most common component of human milk after water, lactose and lipids, are not metabolized by infants. Instead, they have diverse non-nutritive roles, such as protecting infants against invading microbes, and encouraging the proper development of the growing gut. It is well established that different women secrete different collections of HMOs in their milk, and until very recently, genetics was understood to hold complete sway over this, dictating the various types and relative amounts of the various HMOs that a woman produces. In a recent issue of JAMA Pediatrics, however, Antti E. Seppo of the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, and his colleagues, report that women who consumed probiotics have altered blends of HMOs in their milk. Read More...

The Woman Helping Military Moms Breastfeed

The Woman Helping Military Moms Breastfeed

Back in the 1990s, when she had her first child, Robyn Roche-Paull was an aircraft mechanic in the United States Navy. She knew she wanted to breastfeed as long as possible, but her maternity leave was six weeks long, and then, in theory, she could be deployed to any part of the world. At that time, there was no military policy to facilitate pumping at her workplace, though she persevered. She would pump in the supply closet or the bathroom. “It was very, very difficult. The outlet I needed to plug my pump in was right by the bathroom door, and people would come in an out all the time—so the door was always opening to the hallway, with me standing right there,” she explains. Read More...

Assessing the Evidence Around Perfluoroalkyl Substances

Assessing the Evidence Around Perfluoroalkyl Substances

For approximately the past decade, scientists have started to wonder about potential hazards that could be posed to human health from chemicals collectively known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals are widespread in the environment globally—they have been used in manufacturing products such as food packaging and textile coatings since the 1950s, and are now detectable in the food chain, and even in dust and dirt. Since these chemicals can accumulate in the body, researchers are studying how they might be passed from mother to infant. This appears to happen to some extent via the placenta and to a lesser extent via human milk. Such findings should not dissuade mothers from breastfeeding, however, because the levels of PFAS in infant formula have sometimes been found to be higher than those of human milk. Read More...

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