Role and significance of enzymes in human milk

Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Aug;33(8):1861-8. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/33.8.1861.


Although human milk generally contains higher levels of enzymes than bovine milk, little definitive information is available concerning their role or significance. The enzyme levels in human milk as compared to bovine milk and levels in human colostrum versus normal milk are summarized. The few most widely studied human milk enzymes are discussed in more detail. Evidence is presented to support the views that 1) lipoprotein lipase and ribonuclease are probably spilled into the milk from the blood; 2) lysozyme is spilled from the secretory epithelial cells; 3) lactate and malate dehydrogenases, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, and lactose synthetase are synthesized in the mammary gland in response to hormonal stimuli; and 4) bile salt stimulated lipase, diastase, protease, and lysozyme are present in sufficient quantities to aid infants in growth and nutrition. Consideration must be given to standardizing the various enzyme assay procedures and activity units so that meaningful comparisons between various studies could be made.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Colostrum / enzymology
  • Enzymes / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Milk, Human / analysis
  • Milk, Human / enzymology*
  • Pregnancy


  • Enzymes