Bioactive Components in Milk

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Nov;5(6):653-8. doi: 10.1097/00075197-200211000-00007.


Milk is the only biomaterial that evolved under the Darwinian selective pressure to nourish growing mammals. The purpose of this article is to review the scientific research that is using new techniques of integrating biological sequence, structure and function, to understand the innovative biology underlying the products of that evolutionary pressure. As it emerges that milk is actively communicating between the maternal mammary epithelia and the infant's gastrointestinal system, actively directing and educating the immune, metabolic and microflora systems within the infant, enhancing nutrient absorption and delivery, and conferring multiple means of protection, nutritionists are gaining a host of new molecular targets towards which to build scientific strategies for future foods and clinical applications. As new components and functions are being discovered in milk by using traditional methods and modern genomic tools, the complexities of demonstrating, and particularly in humans, the functional mechanisms behind milk's newly observed physiological benefits are becoming the next challenge of this rapidly growing field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Biological Evolution
  • Digestive System / microbiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mice
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk / microbiology
  • Milk / physiology*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / immunology
  • Milk, Human / microbiology
  • Milk, Human / physiology*
  • Selection, Genetic