Breast milk more nutritious in China than US

New York, June 11 (IANS) Babies in China are treated to more nutritious breast milk than those in Mexico or the US, suggests a new research.

Levels of health-promoting compounds known as carotenoids in breast milk differ according to countries with the US lagging behind China and Mexico, the findings showed.

Carotenoids are plant pigments that potentially play functional roles in human development and are key sources of vitamin A, an essential component of eye health and the immune system.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that the mean amount of total carotenoids in US women’s breast milk two weeks after giving birth was about 40 percent lower than levels in Chinese women’s milk and about 25 percent lower than levels in Mexican women’s milk.

The gap between carotenoid levels in the breast milk of US women compared with those in other countries could be indicative of the lower amount of fruits and vegetables eaten in the US compared with China or Mexico, the researchers said.

“Evidence is increasing that carotenoids are important for both mothers and infants,” said Mario Ferruzzi, professor of food science and nutrition at Purdue University.

“Nursing women should eat fruits and vegetables as recommended in dietary guidelines. As long as your baby is happy with it, do not exclude bright orange or yellow produce and leafy vegetables from your diet,” Ferruzzi added.

The researchers analysed the carotenoid and fatty acid composition of breast milk donated by three groups of 20 women at two, four, 13 and 26 weeks after giving birth.

Breast milk from China had the highest levels of lutein — a carotenoid that is key to eye health — at each lactation stage and the highest amount of fatty acids at each stage except the 13th week.

Levels of beta-carotene — a carotenoid that can be converted into vitamin A by the body — varied greatly by country and lactation stage but were about 25 percent higher in milk from China and Mexico than the US at two weeks.

However, breast milk from the US consistently contained the highest levels of lycopene, a carotenoid commonly found in tomatoes that may play a role in immunity and protection against inflammatory diseases.

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