Evidence for human milk as a biological system and recommendations for study design—a report from “Breastmilk Ecology: Genesis of Infant Nutrition (BEGIN)” Working Group 4

Sharon M. Donovan, Nima Aghaeepour, Aline Andres, Meghan B. Azad, Martin Becker, Susan E. Carlson, Kirsi M. Järvinen, Weili Lin, Bo Lönnerdal, Carolyn M. Slupsky, Alison L. Steiber, Daniel J. Raiten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Human milk contains all of the essential nutrients required by the infant within a complex matrix that enhances the bioavailability of many of those nutrients. In addition, human milk is a source of bioactive components, living cells and microbes that facilitate the transition to life outside the womb. Our ability to fully appreciate the importance of this matrix relies on the recognition of short- and long-term health benefits and, as highlighted in previous sections of this supplement, its ecology (i.e., interactions among the lactating parent and breastfed infant as well as within the context of the human milk matrix itself). Designing and interpreting studies to address this complexity depends on the availability of new tools and technologies that account for such complexity. Past efforts have often compared human milk to infant formula, which has provided some insight into the bioactivity of human milk, as a whole, or of individual milk components supplemented with formula. However, this experimental approach cannot capture the contributions of the individual components to the human milk ecology, the interaction between these components within the human milk matrix, or the significance of the matrix itself to enhance human milk bioactivity on outcomes of interest. This paper presents approaches to explore human milk as a biological system and the functional implications of that system and its components. Specifically, we discuss study design and data collection considerations and how emerging analytical technologies, bioinformatics, and systems biology approaches could be applied to advance our understanding of this critical aspect of human biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S61-S86
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Volume117
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2023

Keywords

  • human milk
  • immune
  • infant development
  • microbiome
  • systems biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Evidence for human milk as a biological system and recommendations for study design—a report from “Breastmilk Ecology: Genesis of Infant Nutrition (BEGIN)” Working Group 4'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this