Objective: Because maternal epidermal growth factor (EGF) may be an adaptive response to accelerate growth and maturation in premature infants, we compared the EGF content in fresh cow's milk and cow's milk-based infant formulas with full and preterm mother's milk.
Methods: EGF content of 57 human colostrum from mothers delivering prematurely and at term, 4 different fresh cow's milk and 8 different cow's milk-based infant formulas was determined by radioimmunoassay (RIA).
Results: Human milk from mothers of premature infants had a higher EGF content compared to that from mothers of term infants (28.2 +/- 10.3 nmol/L vs. 17.3 +/- 9.6 nmol/L). EGF content in human milk negatively correlated with gestational age and birth weight of neonates. EGF content in fresh cow's milk (13.8 - 18.2 nmol/L) was similar to that in human term milk. EGF levels in non-hydrolyzed protein formulas were much lower (5.6 - 8.6 nmol/L), and were undetectable in hydrolyzed protein formulas.
Conclusion: The high EGF content in premature milk may represent a maternal compensatory mechanism to accelerate the growth and development of immature infants. Feeding infants with breast milk from their own mother should be advocated since there is lack of EGF in cow's milk-based infant formulas.