July 20, 2024

Study Finds that Pasteurization Decreases Bioactive Component of Breast Milk

A recent study conducted by researchers at an unnamed institution has found that the process of pasteurization significantly reduces the concentration of osteopontin, a bioactive protein present in breast milk. This discovery raises concerns about the nutritional and bioactive value of alternate breast milk products commonly used when a mother’s own milk is unavailable.

The researchers, led by Danyvid Olivares-Villagómez, Ph.D., along with graduate student Kathleen McClanahan and their colleagues, aimed to determine the impact of different milk pasteurization and storage techniques on the concentration of osteopontin. Osteopontin is known to play crucial roles in the development of the intestines, immune system, and brain. The team measured the osteopontin concentrations in various samples of human breast milk, including fresh and frozen single-donor samples, pooled donor breast milk (pasteurized using the Holder method), and a shelf-stable breast milk product (pasteurized using the retort method).

The results of the study revealed that the Holder pasteurization technique reduced the concentration of osteopontin by approximately 50%. Additionally, the shelf-stable breast milk product, which underwent the harsher retort pasteurization, exhibited lower levels of osteopontin compared to the Holder-pasteurized pooled donor breast milk. Interestingly, freezing breast milk before Holder pasteurization resulted in less degradation of osteopontin compared to pasteurization followed by freezing.

Furthermore, the researchers observed a trend where breast milk from mothers of preterm infants had higher osteopontin concentrations than breast milk from mothers of term infants. However, the samples from preterm mothers experienced greater degradation of osteopontin during the pasteurization process.

These findings, which have been published in the journal Pediatric Research, indicate that the process of pasteurization significantly affects the concentration of osteopontin, potentially limiting the activity of this bioactive protein. In light of this, the researchers suggest considering supplementation with osteopontin. Bovine osteopontin has already received approval for formula supplementation in Europe and has been shown to be well tolerated by infants.

This study sheds light on the potential impacts of pasteurization on the nutritional and bioactive qualities of breast milk. As breast milk is often used to nourish preterm infants, who are at a higher risk of developing complications, understanding the effects of different pasteurization techniques is crucial in ensuring optimal nutrition and development for these vulnerable infants. Further research and discussions regarding the use of breast milk products and possible supplementation are necessary to make informed decisions regarding the feeding of preterm newborns.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it