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New Immune Cells Found in Mother's Milk

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

breast milk

Story at-a-glance -

  • The continually developing field of stem cell biology over the last decade has shown that innate lymphoid cells in breast milk, known as ILCs, influence not just immunity, but inflammation and tissue health in breastfed babies
  • Several types of ILCs reside in the tissues of babies as they develop and can both initiate and advance an immune response
  • ILCs are essentially on standby, waiting to communicate with a developed immune system, and can survive in an infant’s gut for several days to protect against harmful bacteria
  • A small amount of breast milk progenitor cells can penetrate the gastrointestinal tract walls of nursed infants, enter their circulatory system and colonize distant organs, including their spleens, livers and lymph nodes
  • Researchers found positive outcomes for breastfed babies — and negatives for formula-fed babies — in three specific areas; negatives being diabetes mellitus, atopy (hypersensitivity or allergic reactions) and childhood obesity

It's well-known that breastfed babies tend to be healthier than babies given a bottle filled with formula, especially in their first year of life, and the benefits are numerous. What's more, the longer a baby is breastfed, the more far-reaching the health effects are throughout their lives.

The developing field of stem cell biology is being used by scientists to differentiate the types of cells derived from breast milk. While there are innumerable studies on the advantages mothers offer their children when they choose to breastfeed, one discovery in the last decade concerns the millions of immune cells known as innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs. According to a JAMA Pediatrics study published in 2018:

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