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The Astonishing Effects Of Breast Milk On The Human Body
It has long been debated which is better: breast milk or formula. In the end it really all depends on the individual baby’s needs as well as the family situation. While formula is perfectly fine for most babies, there is no denying the tremendous advantages and benefits your baby can get from being on a breast milk diet.
Formula vs. Breast Milk: Why the Debate?
While formula is healthy and can give your growing baby everything it needs, research and studies have shown that there are advantages to feeding your baby breast milk.
Majority of the fighting over which is better is mainly based on personal preferences and those trying to defend formula as a choice. Let’s reiterate that formula is a great choice as well, especially for busy moms or those that aren’t able to breastfeed for medical reasons.
Both options are acceptable and either can be great for your baby. No parent should feel guilty about feeding their child formula because it’s ‘not as good’. If formula was not a solid choice for feeding your child, it would not be available on the market.
With that said, we can get into why breast milk is a great choice and how it can benefit the health of your baby.
How Breast Milk Affects the DNA
Research has shown that breast milk can interact and affect the actual genes and DNA of a baby in a way that formula can not. Breast milk is known to boost the child’s immune system, promote digestive health, and even protect from obesity down the road.
Scientists also have proof that a breastfed child is more protected against certain diseases such as diabetes and asthma due to their boosted immune systems when compared to a child that was not breastfed.
Genes and DNA in the body are very sensitive and can respond and change based on nutrition in the body. To determine how formula-fed and breastfed babies’ genes are different, scientists study the baby’s gene expression. Basically when a gene is synthesized and given its operating instructions, it is being turned on in a way and that is gene expression.
In a recent study scientists looked for gene expression from intestinal cells of 3-month old babies that had been both breastfed and formula-fed. The results were astonishing, with researchers finding out that there were over 140 genes that were affected by both formula and breast milk.
The scientists were able to see that there were many genes that were altered and enhanced by the breast milk in a way that boosted the immune system and caused the digestive tract to develop quicker than babies being fed formula. This is important because the faster a baby’s immune system and digestive tract develop, the healthier the child will be in the long-term.
The study also found that the genes that were altered from the breast milk in a positive way were able to prevent a condition called leaky gut. Leaky gut is a condition where through the intestinal wall certain foreign particles and bacteria can enter into the bloodstream. Leaky gut is bad for babies because it can lead to other conditions such as asthma, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory diseases. Research has shown that leaky gut is more common in formula-fed babies compared to breastfed babies.
A baby that is breastfed could have long-term, and even lifelong, health effects from the breast milk since this research has confirmed that breast milk can alter DNA.
Researchers believe that breast milk can alter DNA in human babies because as it develops in the mother’s breasts it has evolved specifically to meet the needs of that infant. Breastmilk contains essential nutrients that a human baby needs, such as hormones, bioactive ingredients, fibers, and growth elements. Manufactured formula is not able to specifically produce the same types of nutritional contents that breast milk can.
Beneficial Ingredients in Breast Milk
It is a scientific fact that the types of ingredients in breast milk just cannot be replicated in manufactured formula. A mother’s breast milk has the amazing ability to transform and evolve to match the baby’s current needs. If an infant is born premature, the mother’s milk will alter its chemical makeup in order to meet the current needs of that baby. They truly are astonishing.
Vitamins: There are over a dozen identified essential vitamins found in breastmilk. Majority of these vitamins cannot be manufactured and replicated exactly and placed into formula. These include:
- B12 – an essential vitamin that is necessary for the metabolism to function properly.
- B2 – also called riboflavin, this vitamin is essential for babies for proper development and protection of the digestive tract. B2 is also important for functioning and growth of other intracellular systems.
- B6 – a necessary vitamin for proper DNA synthesis. Also plays an important role in the metabolism of nerve tissues.
- B1 – also called thiamine, is utilized in the body for fat synthesis as well as using carbohydrates for the metabolism.
- C – one of the most necessary and vital vitamins for a baby. Vitamin C works throughout the entire body working in various organs, enzymes, and hormone systems.
- E – plays an important role in the blood system, working to prevent anemia. Vitamin E is found most abundantly in the colostrum of the breast milk, and is an antioxidant and also works largely for muscle development.
- D – not found in high amounts in breast milk, but is essential in helping the body to absorb calcium and maintaining the right amount of calcium in the body and phosphorus in the blood.
- A – works throughout the entire body to promote health. This vitamin helps maintain healthy skeletal system, teeth, skin, and also works in the soft tissue and mucous membranes. Vitamin A also works largely in the eyes to promote healthy vision and boost the immune system.
- K – needed for preventing certain diseases in an infant as well as boosting the immune system.
- C – plays an important role throughout the body, promoting hormonal health and helping enzyme systems.
- Folic acid – helps to develop healthy blood cells, produce DNA, promotes healthy tissue growth, and has been linked to lessen the likelihood of certain birth defects.
- Niacin – works largely in the digestive system, nerves, and skin. Niacin is essential for converting food to energy as well as keeping a healthy respiratory system.
- B5 – helps the body to break down and use food in the proper way. Is needed for proper growth and a healthy metabolism.
There are other ingredients in breast milk besides vitamins that are necessary for proper growth and development. Breastmilk is also abundant in various proteins and enzymes. The two main types of proteins are casein and whey. Having a healthy balance of both is needed for a healthy digestive system and protection against various infections.
Proteins found in breastmilk:
- Protect the baby from bacteria and viruses such as E.Coli and Salmonella
- Promote healthy growth of intestinal tissues
- Work as anti-inflammatories
- Promote a healthy acidic balance in the digestive tract so unhealthy bacteria and viruses cannot live or thrive
Carbohydrates are also found in human breast milk, most notably lactose. Lactose provides needed calories as well as promotes a healthy digestive tract, and helps for the digestive system to absorb needed minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. Aiding in absorption helps the body to fight off certain illnesses and diseases.
Fats also are an ingredient in breastmilk that have considerable benefits for baby. Fats assist in vitamin absorption, providing calories, and aiding in brain development. Fatty acids are substantial in aiding in vision, nervous system, and brain development in a baby.
Noticing a Difference
Hundreds of studies have been performed including thousands of babies that were both breastfed and formula-fed. Many results have been conclusive that there is a noted difference in the two.
One of the most substantial findings concludes that a baby that is breastfed is less likely to become overweight or obese later in life. Formula-fed babies are more likely to become overweight or obese as early as adolescence, while breastfed babies can go without being overweight into adulthood.
There are exceptions to the obesity findings. Children that are breastfed can still become overweight or obese later in life if they participate in exceedingly unhealthy lifestyles or if their mothers consumed large amounts of trans fats while nursing.
Overall, breastfed babies are 14 times less likely to become hospitalized for any reason than formula-fed babies, as their immune systems are stronger. Research shows that formula-fed babies are more likely to suffer from respiratory conditions such as asthma, influenza, and pneumonia. Babies that are formula-fed also have more digestive issues such as infections, diarrhea, and constipation.
Breastfed babies have stronger immune systems because of the active living white blood cells that are transferred to them from breastmilk as well as dozens of other probiotics, vitamins, and minerals. These living cells cannot be replicated and are not found in formula.
Long-term studies has found that breastfed babies are less likely to get certain diseases later on in life than their formula-fed counterparts. They are less likely to develop juvenile diabetes, suffer from heart disease, asthma, and certain childhood cancers. Breastfed children have also shown proof that they are less likely to develop digestive conditions compared to children that were formula-fed as babies.
Breastfed babies are also less likely to have vision problems or develop ear infections. They are also less likely to have teeth and orthodontic issues later in life.
There is no denying that breastmilk is a remarkable liquid. Researchers have yet to uncover all of the effects and various uses of breast milk and how it can be beneficial in more ways than nourishing a newborn.