Human Milk Retains Important Immunologic Properties After Defatting

Brittany Anne Jackson, Brigid Ellen Gregg, Sara Denise Tutor, Jennifer Rachelle Bermick, Kate Peterson Stanley
JPEN. Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 2019 October 9

BACKGROUND: In neonatal chylothorax, thoracic lymphatic drainage is ineffective. The resultant effusions often require drainage, leading to a loss of immune components. Affected infants can be managed with formula or defatted human milk feedings low in long-chain triglycerides to decrease lymph production. We hypothesized that there is no significant difference in the immunological profile or antibacterial effect of full-fat and defatted human milk.

METHODS: Milk from lactating mothers was divided into 1 aliquot that was defatted via centrifugation with the full-fat aliquot as control. Macronutrient content was analyzed with mid-infrared spectroscopy. Flow cytometry was used to measure immune cell populations. Lactoferrin, lysozyme, immunoglobulin (Ig)A, and IgG values were determined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The antibacterial properties were determined by inoculating paired full-fat and defatted milk samples with Escherichia coli or Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and performing colony counts.

RESULTS: Compared with full-fat milk, defatted milk demonstrated decreased total energy and fat and increased carbohydrate concentrations. Defatted milk demonstrated a significant decrease in all immune cell populations. There was no difference in IgA, IgG, lysozyme, or lactoferrin concentrations. Both aliquots demonstrated equivalent growth inhibition of E. coli and S. pneumoniae.

CONCLUSIONS: Unexpectedly, defatted human milk contained significantly less leukocytes than full-fat milk. IgA, IgG, lysozyme, and lactoferrin concentrations were preserved. The ability of defatted milk to inhibit bacterial growth was unaffected, suggesting that the antibacterial benefits of human milk remain after the defatting process. Further investigation regarding the clinical effect of leukocyte loss in defatted milk is warranted.


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