Breast Milk Offers Twice the Antioxidant Protection of Formula
I think the evidence supporting breast feeding is overwhelmingly in favor. I think the problem today is that many mothers are told to cease breastfeeding when certain symptoms show up in the infant: colic, skin rashes, diarrhea… In cases like these we need to evaluate the mother’s diet and attempt to eliminate any foods from her diet that the infant may be sensitive to before we stop nursing.
Experimental Biology 2001 meeting Breast milk, even from mothers who deliver prematurely, contains twice the levels of antioxidants as commercial formula, according to a study presented at the Experimental Biology 2001 meeting. Dr. James Friel of Memorial University in St. John’s in Newfoundland noted that the lungs and immune systems of premature infants are not as developed as full-term infants. Dr. Friel said, “That means that these infants are under attack by oxygen free radicals but lack ability to cope with that stress.” The resulting oxidative stress is associated with respiratory distress syndrome, haemorrhage, eye disorders and various other problems. 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. Dr. Friel also hypothesized that colostrum “would be particularly protective.” Dr. Friel compared milk from 28 women who had preterm deliveries to milk from 17 women who delivered at full term. 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. The result 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 [in the breast milk] between the mothers of premature babies and the mothers of full-term babies.” Dr. Friel also attempted to enhance breast milk by fortifying it with more antioxidant enzymes. He also tried the same “fortification” with formula. He discovered that when he added antioxidants found in breast milk to commercial infant 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.”