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article imageBeneficial bacteria ‘arrive’ from breast milk

By Tim Sandle     Aug 27, 2013 in Health
Researchers have discovered that important, beneficial bacteria arrive in babies' digestive systems from their mother's gut via breast milk. This has implications for health and immunity.
The finding indicates that bacteria can travel from the mother's gut to her breast milk and that a healthy community of bacteria in the gut of both mother and baby are important for baby's gut health and immune system development.
In particular, the researchers traced bacteria beneficial to colonic health from the guts of mothers into breast milk. From this it is reasoned that strains found in breast milk may be involved in establishing a critical nutritional balance in the baby's gut and may be important to prevent intestinal disorders. Furthermore, 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.
This appears to support arguments that breast milk is a unique nutritional source that cannot adequately be replaced by any other food, including infant formula. That said, one implication from the finding is that powdered milk could be formulated with suitable probiotics to ensure that the immune system of babies who are not breast fed is strengthened.
Any enhancement of baby milk would be with "prebiotics" rather than "probiotics." Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth and/or activity of bacteria in the digestive system in ways claimed to be beneficial to health.
The research findings have been published in the journal Environmental Microbiology. The paper is titled “Vertical mother-neonate transfer of maternal gut bacteria via breast-feeding.”
More about Bacteria, Breasts, Breast milk, Immunity
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