The FAAS track: Synbiotics and breast milk

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  • Published: Mar 15, 2015
  • Author: David Bradley
  • Channels: Atomic
thumbnail image: The FAAS track: Synbiotics and breast milk

Synbiotic supplementation

FAAS (flame atomic absorption spectroscopy)  has been used to determine the concentration of essential trace metals, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc, in breast milk. The results  suggest that normal dietary intake do not affect levels available to breastfeeding infant and so mothers should be encouraged to take a supplement when they are deficient.

FAAS (flame atomic absorption spectroscopy) has been used to determine the concentration of essential trace metals, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc, in breast milk. The results suggest that normal dietary intake do not affect levels available to breastfeeding infant and so mothers should be encouraged to take a supplement when they are deficient.

Reza Mahdavi, Sharare Taghipour , Alireza Ostadrahimi, Leila Nikniaz and Seyed Jamal Ghaemmaghami Hezaveh of the Nutrition Research Center at Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran, point out that it is known that the mineral content of human breast declines over the duration of lactation. The team has now carried out a pilot study using FAAS to determine with synbiotic, or supplementary, nutrition containing both probiotic and prebiotic components might improve mineral composition and so be of benefit to the growing infant, providing useful quantities of essential metal ions.

Mineral manifest

The researchers divided a small cohort of 57 breastfeeding women into two groups to take part in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of daily mineral supplementation for approximately a month. One of the two groups received a genuine synbiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN 35, L. casei PXN 37, L. bulgaricus PXN 39, L. rhamnosus PXN 54, Streptococcus thermophilus PXN 66, Bifidobacterium breve PXN 25, B. longum PXN 30 and fructo-oligosaccharide (as documented by the manufacturer, Protexin, Probiotics International Ltd, Somerset, UK). The other group received a placebo (tablets containing only rice starch). The team assessed weight and height scores and measure head circumference in the infants and determined total dietary intake for the mothers of each of the metals studied.

The FAAS results on the breast milk revealed that supplementation raised mineral levels for each metal by only a very small, statistically significant amount. However, the levels in the placebo group were shown to decline significantly over the course of the study. Moreover, for the infants in the supplemented group their weight and height scores continued to rise but declined in the placebo group. The mineral levels did not show an association with non-synbiotic dietary intake. Studies in lactating animals over the last decade had suggested that synbiotics might somehow improve uptake of minerals from the gut and thence expression during lactation.

Pilot takes off

Human milk is a complex mixture of water, proteins, fats, sugars and minerals. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends it to be the ideal food for neonates and infants. However, as lactation progresses, certain factors, mineral content, in particular, are compromised perhaps by the demands of early motherhood, changes in diet and the mother's physiology. While the first few days of breastfeeding may provide the ideal food, the quality of milk may decline as the weeks go by. This may be particularly pertinent in the developing world or in poverty-stricken regions where maternal health and diet are not as good as they might be in wealthier regions where food and water are abundant.

Mahdavi and colleagues explain that, "Lactating mothers are considered as a nutritionally vulnerable group especially in developing countries. The success of lactation and also health status of infant depends on the kind of diet consumed by women during pregnancy and lactation." The team adds that, "Our results also indicated the significant decrease in breast milk mineral levels in the placebo group, whereas in the synbiotic group, the supplementation led to an insignificant increase of the mineral levels."

While synbiotic supplementation does not significantly increase mineral content of breast milk it seems to stabilise the decline that would otherwise occur over the weeks. They suggest that further studies with other species of probiotic bacteria and a larger cohort of new mothers are now need to extend their pilot study.

Related Links

J Trace Elements Med Biol 2015, 30, 25-29: "A pilot study of synbiotic supplementation on breast milk mineral concentrations and growth of exclusively breast fed infants"

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

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