Breast milk is not just a source of nutrition for the baby. Researchers have shown that it also has a compound that fights infections by allowing beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Breastfeeding is known to contain natural antibiotics, besides increasing intelligence and decreasing the chances of getting middle ear infections. Breast milk is also known to increase cold and flu resistance.
According to a study, breast milk has more then 200 times the amount of gylcerol monolaurate (GML) than is found in cow’s milk. “Our findings demonstrate that high levels of GML are unique to human breast milk and strongly inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria,” Donald Leung, professor of pediatrics at the National Jewish Health and senior author of the paper, was quoted as saying.
“While antibiotics can fight bacterial infections in infants, they kill the beneficial bacteria along with the pathogenic ones,” said first author and professor of microbiology Patrick Schlievert. “GML is much more selective, fighting only the pathogenic bacteria while allowing beneficial species to thrive. We think GML holds great promise as a potential additive to cows’ milk and infant formula that could promote the health of babies around the world,” he added.
Researchers also found that human breast milk inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Clostridium perfringens.
When researchers removed the GML from human breast milk, it lost its antimicrobial activity against S aureus. GML, according to researchers, also inhibits inflammation in epithelial cells that line the gut and other mucosal surfaces.