Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 317-323

First online:

The potential physiological significance of milk-borne hormonally active substances for the neonate

  • Otakar KoldovskýAffiliated withDepartments of Pediatrics and Physiology and Steele Memorial Research Center, Furrow Research Laboratory and Cosden Neonatology Research Wing, University of Arizona, College of Medicine Email author 

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This article reviews the presence and potential physiological significance of hormones and hormonally active substances (including growth factors) in human milk. Human milk has been found to contain several nonpeptide hormones and many peptide hormones and growth factors. In contrast to human breast milk, infant formulae lack some hormonally active peptides. There is little data concerning the effects of these agents on human neonates. Studies in immature experimental animals showing effects of orogastically administered hormones are summarized. The problems of supplementation of infant formula are discussed. Since hormones are present in the milk as a “cocktail” of potentially agonistic and antagonistic substances, one question is whether supplementation with a single agent would disturb this balance.

Key words

Nonpeptide hormones peptide hormones growth factors gastrointestinal absorption luminal effects of hormones milk