Milk Offers Twice
The Antioxidant Protection
(Reuters Health) - Premature babies may especially benefit from
breast milk because it's ``twice as good as formula'' at providing
not only nutrients but antioxidant protection as well, according
to a study presented at the Experimental Biology 2001 meeting
Friel of Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland said that
antioxidant protection is especially important for premature infants
because their lungs as well as their immune systems are not fully
developed when they are born. In an interview with Reuters Health
Friel said, ``That means that these infants are under attack by
oxygen free radicals but lack ability to cope with that stress.''
of this free radical attack is a condition called oxidative stress,
which is associated with respiratory distress syndrome, hemorrhage,
and eye disorders--ailments that frequently develop in premature
mop up free radicals and thus protect the infants from the dangers
of associated with oxidative stress, said Friel. Earlier studies
found that breast milk contains ''antioxidant enzymes, but we
thought that the levels of these enzymes may be greater in milk
produced by mothers of premature infants,'' he said. Friel also
hypothesized the milk from the first week following the delivery,
actually the mineral-rich fluid called colostrum ``would be particularly
that a kangaroo can nurse a year old offspring ''at one nipple
and a week old one at another nipple. When the milk from each
nipple is analyzed the nutrient content is different. We thought
that human might have this same ability to produce a different
type of milk to meet the special needs of a premature baby.''
In the study
Friel compared milk from 28 women who had preterm deliveries to
milk from 17 women who delivered after fullterm pregnancies. The
milk was collected at weeks 1, 2, and 12, he said. He tested the
antioxidant protection potency by exposing all the milk samples
to high levels of free radicals.
was surprising: ``there was really no difference in the antioxidant
protection level from week to week. It was all good,'' he said.
Likewise, ``there was no difference between the mothers of premature
babies and the mothers of fullterm babies.''
to comparing the milk from the mothers of preemies to mothers
of fullterm infants, Friel also attempted to enhance breast milk
by fortifying it with more antioxidant enzymes. He also tried
the same ``fortification'' with formula.
that when he added the antioxidant producing enzymes found in
breast milk to commercial baby formula ``the formula offered better
protection against free radicals. But when we added additional
enzymes to the breast milk, it didn't increase the antioxidant
protection of breast milk.'' He concludes that it is difficult
to improve nature, but ''commercial formulas could be improved
so that they more closely resemble human breast milk.'
Reference Source 89