Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Breastfeeding has been numerous health benefits and reduced disease risk for the Child
Many people believe that breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can offer to her child. It has lots of benefits, not only because breast milk contains the right amount of nutrients, but also because it’s packed with lots of antibodies and biologically active compounds that plays a key role in boosting a baby’s immune system. We have already seen how maternal nutrition and lifestyle can shape the development and future health of a baby via epigenetic mechanisms. Among many postnatal factors that can contribute to determining lifelong health and disease through epigenetic mechanisms, infant feeding plays a key role, especially breastfeeding.
Breast milk has been shown to protect new-borns against many diseases commonly experienced during the first year of life and research has begun to make connections between the benefits of breastfeeding and epigenetics. In the spirit of World Breastfeeding week we’ll explore the health benefits of breastfeeding, the possible epigenetic effects, and its potential ability to protect against four major diseases. Human milk confers unique nutritional and non-nutritional benefits, enhancing a child’s growth and development, as well as overall health, not only in early life but also for the long-term, and offering prevention against some diseases.
Epigenetic Effects of Breastfeeding
With these health benefits in mind, researchers have been exploring the potential underlying epigenetic mechanisms that may be linked to the benefits of breastfeeding. An epigenetic mechanism is a biochemical alteration to the DNA that does not change the sequence but does influence gene expression. These epigenetic alterations are greatly influenced by the environment and are heritable. The major epigenetic processes are DNA methylation, histone modification, and chromatin remodelling. Whereas breastfeeding is restricted to the lactation period, continued consumption of cow’s milk results in persistent epigenetic up regulation of genes critically involved in the development of diseases of civilization such as diabesity, neurodegeneration, and cancer. We hypothesize that the same miRNAs that epigenetically increase lactation, up regulate gene expression of the milk recipient via milk-derived miRNAs.
Recently, studies have confirmed that breastfeeding reduces the risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections in the first year; it also lowers the incidence of otitis media – a group of inflammatory diseases of the middle ear – and ear or throat infections.
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