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Breast milk regulates intestinal development


Washington : Breast milk is indeed best for your infant. A new study found that bioactive components in breast milk regulate the development of the intestinal tract of the newborn.

The ability to track which genes are operating in an infant’s intestine has allowed University of Illinois scientists to compare the early development of breast-fed and formula-fed babies. They say the difference is very real.

“For the first time, we can see that breast milk induces genetic pathways that are quite different from those in formula-fed infants,” said Sharon Donovan, a professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, who conducted the study.

“Although formula makers have tried to develop a product that’s as much like breast milk as possible, hundreds of genes were expressed differently in the breast-fed and formula-fed groups,” Donovan said.

“The intestinal tract of the newborn undergoes marked changes in response to feeding. And the response to human milk exceeds that of formula, suggesting that the bioactive components in breast milk are important in this response,” she noted.

“What we haven’t known is how breast milk protects the infant and particularly how it regulates the development of the intestine,” she said.

Understanding those differences should help formula makers develop a product that is more like the real thing, she said.

Many of the differences found by the scientists were in fundamental genes that regulate the development of the intestine and provide immune defence for the infant, a University of Illinois release said.

The study is slated for publication in the June issue of the American Journal of Physiology, Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.