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article imageBreast milk contains over 700 different bacteria

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By Tim Sandle     Jan 6, 2013 in Science
New research from Spain has examined the range of different bacteria found in breast milk. The study has revealed a larger microbial diversity than originally thought: more than 700 species. This make-up has implications for the developing child.
To understand and to characterize the range of different bacteria the scientists used DNA sequencing to identify the set of bacteria contained within breast milk, according to a research brief. The totality of microorganisms within an environment is called the microbiome.
The researchers noticed some difference between mothers, Eureka! notes. The difference was that the milk of overweight mothers or those who put on more weight than recommended during pregnancy contains a lesser diversity of species. If the premise that a wide variety of species is important for a developing child's immune system, then the finding has implications. A related finding was that the hormonal state of the mother at the time of labor also plays a role in the diversity of milk bacteria.
The study was led by María Carmen Collado, researcher at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA-CSIC) and Alex Mira, researcher at the Higher Public Health Research Centre (CSISP-GVA).
The research is of importance, Live Science reveals, because the breast milk received from the mother is one of the factors determining how the bacterial flora will develop in the newborn baby. The bacteria contained within the human gut have been shown to affect the health of a person, including a likelihood of obesity.
The next strand of research is likely to lead to a comparison between breast milk and infant formula to see if the range of bacteria in breast milk helps to prevent the baby from developing allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases.
The results have been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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