Human Breast Milk Composition and Function in Human Health: From Nutritional Components to Microbiome and MicroRNAs

Nutrients. 2021 Sep 2;13(9):3094. doi: 10.3390/nu13093094.


Human breast milk (HBM) is not only an indispensable source of nutrients for early human growth and development, supplying components that support infant growth and development, but also contains various essential immunologic components with anti-infectious activities and critical roles in the formation of immunity. It is also known that HBM contains its own unique microbiome, including beneficial, commensal, and potentially probiotic bacteria, that can contribute to infant gut colonization. In addition, HBM-derived extracellular vesicles, exosomes, and microRNA are attracting increasing interest for their potential to transfer to the infant and their role in infant development. In this article, we examine some of the various constituents in HBM and review the evidence supporting their associated health effects and their potential applications in human health.

Keywords: human health; human milk; microbiota.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / physiology
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Immune System / growth & development*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • MicroRNAs / physiology*
  • Microbiota / physiology*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / immunology
  • Milk, Human / physiology*
  • Nutritive Value / physiology*


  • MicroRNAs