Longitudinal evolution of true protein, amino acids and bioactive proteins in breast milk: a developmental perspective

J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Mar:41:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.06.001. Epub 2016 Jun 21.


The protein content of breast milk provides a foundation for estimating protein requirements of infants. Because it serves as a guideline for regulatory agencies issuing regulations for infant formula composition, it is critical that information on the protein content of breast milk is reliable. We have therefore carried out a meta-analysis of the protein and amino acid contents of breast milk and how they evolve during lactation. As several bioactive proteins are not completely digested in the infant and therefore represent "non-utilizable" protein, we evaluated the quantity, mechanism of action and digestive fate of several major breast milk proteins. A better knowledge of the development of the protein contents of breast milk and to what extent protein utilization changes with age of the infant will help improve understanding of protein needs in infancy. It is also essential when designing the composition of infant formulas, particularly when the formula uses a "staging" approach in which the composition of the formula is modified in stages to reflect changes in breast milk and changing requirements as the infant ages.

Keywords: Amino acids; Breast milk; Human milk; Infant nutrition; Lactation; Protein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / biosynthesis
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Child Development*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / chemistry
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation*
  • Male
  • Milk Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Milk Proteins / metabolism
  • Milk, Human* / chemistry
  • Milk, Human* / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nutritional Requirements
  • Peptide Fragments / biosynthesis
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism


  • Amino Acids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Peptide Fragments