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Adv Food Nutr Res. 2008;54:45-80. doi: 10.1016/S1043-4526(07)00002-2.

The immunological components of human milk.

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  • 1Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Sciences, Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2P5, Canada.


Breast-feeding is generally accepted as the optimal method of feeding infants. However, we have yet to fully understand the complex mixture of bioactive compounds contained in human milk. Epidemiological studies have indicated that breast-feeding is associated with health benefits in the infant for many immune-related conditions. Breast milk contains various antimicrobial substances, factors that promote immune development, constituents that promote tolerance/priming of the infant immune system, as well as anti-inflammatory components. This chapter identifies and discusses the immunological compounds in human milk and the available evidence for their effect on the immune system of the infant. Current feeding regimens recommended for infants are based primarily on the current understanding of the nutritional requirements of the neonate, but perhaps will be modified to reflect the consequences on immune function both immediate and later in life.

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