Researchers from the University of California have found yet more reasons to breastfeed babies. Breast milk sugars provide infants with a protective coat against noxious bacteria, lining the infant’s intestine.
According to the researchers, the sugars are very similar to those found on the surface of human cells, and are constructed in the breast by the same enzymes. The proteins in milk also have special roles. One, called Alpha-lactalbumin, can attack tumor cells and those infected by viruses by restoring their lost ability to commit cell suicide. The protein, which accumulates when an infant is weaned, is also the signal for the breast to remodel itself back to normal state.