The ingredient called pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor, or PSTI, is found at its highest levels in colostrum - the milk produced in the first few days after birth. The lining of a newborn's gut is particularly vulnerable to damage as it has never been exposed to food or drink. The new study highlights the importance of breastfeeding in the first few days after the birth.
The researchers examined the effects of this ingredient on human intestinal cells in the lab. When they inflicted damage to the cells they found that PSTI stimulated the cells to move across the damaged area forming a natural protective 'plaster'. They also found that PSTI could prevent further damage by stopping the cells of the intestine from self-destructing.
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. Research suggests that it plays a similar protective role in the gut.
One of the researchers said:
"We know that breast milk is made up of a host of different ingredients and we also know that there are a number of health benefits for babies who are breast-fed.
"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.
"It reinforces the benefits of breast feeding, especially in the first few days after birth."
Research Paper details:
Breastfeeding Makes children Smarter
A 2008 study from Canada found that breastfeeding babies seems to make them smarter. In fact, children fed breast milk exclusively for the first three months of life were found to score higher on IQ tests at the age of six than bottle fed children.
Research paper details:
Kramer, MS, et al. breastfeeding and Child Cognitive Development. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(5):578-584.
In other research, Spanish scientists studied 1460 children between the ages of three and seven to find a relationship between breastfeeding and allergies, including skin and sinus allergies. The researchers found that those who were breastfed for three months had fewer allergies and concluded that "the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible continues to be valid, as there was a significant preventive impact on the development of allergic diseases with the length of time breastfed."
Research paper details: