Breast feeding protects babies from stomach damage, study finds
Newborn babies which are breast fed are better protected against damage to their stomachs than those given formula milk, new research suggests.
By Murray Wardrop
Published: 7:00AM BST 30 Jun 2009
The lining of a newborn baby's gut is particularly vulnerable to damage as it has never been exposed to food or drink. Photo: GETTY
Scientists discovered that human breast milk contains and ingredient which protects and repairs the delicate intestines of newborn infants.
The ingredient called pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor (PSTI), is found at its highest levels in colostrum – the milk produced in the first few days after birth.
Researchers found that PSTI stimulated cells to form a natural protective 'plaster' over damaged intestinal cells.
The molecule also helps prevent further damage by stopping cells in the intestine from self-destructing.
Experts at Queen Mary, University of London, found that PSTI could reduce damage by 75 per cent.
Professor Ray Playford, who led the study, said: "This study is important because it shows that a component of breast milk protects and repairs the babies delicate intestines in readiness for the onslaught of all the food and drink that are to come."
Prof Playford, of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, added: "It reinforces the benefits of breast feeding, especially in the first few days after birth."
The lining of a newborn baby's gut is particularly vulnerable to damage as it has never been exposed to food or drink.
Researchers found small amounts of PSTI in all the samples of breast milk they tested but it was seven times more concentrated in colostrum samples. The ingredient was not found in formula milk.
PSTI is a molecule which is normally found in the pancreas where it protects the organ from being damaged by the digestive enzymes it produces.