Proteins in Human Milk: Composition and Biological Effects
Sharon Donnovan’s presentation covers human milk protein content and composition, functionality and the future direction of study in this area. Human milk bioactive proteins have diverse functions that likely contribute to the beneficial aspects of breastfeeding, and many of these are cross-functional.
Human milk proteins are broadly classified into three groups: caseins, whey proteins and mucins (which are found in the Milk Fat Globule Membrane). Functionality is influenced by their compartmentalisation in milk and the process of digestion. The presentation compares the proteins in infant formula and human milk using examples from recent research into each type of protein and how they are digested and utilised in the body in terms of infant immune outcomes and cognitive development.
New scientific research techniques have enabled the identification of the make-up and role of some minor proteins in human milk for possible synthesis in infant formulas. Through this work, it may be possible to narrow the gap between human milk and infant formula.