Past, present and future of human milk research

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Intersections of Nutrition: Retracing Yesterday, Redefining Tomorrow


Human milk is the best source of infant nutrition and is recognized as a biological fluid vital for optimal growth and development. It has established short- and long-term benefits to infants and mothers. Sapiens’ milk has coevolved with mammalian species for millennia which has resulted in this remarkable secretory product of nutrient-rich milk. The nutritional composition and nonnutritive bioactive factors in human milk are uniquely appropriate for the infant, which provides survival and healthy development. Research over the past 2–3 decades focused on increasing the understanding about the composition of human milk and different factors that influence the composition such as stage of lactation, impact of maternal diet, geographical location, gestational age at infant birth, and circadian rhythm. Presently, collaborative efforts are ongoing in communicating the clinical advantages of human milk composition in relation to public health. Different groups are also working on the establishment of reference in the form of databases using reference and growth standard methodology. Toward the future, with computational and modeling methods, the next stage is to understand human milk as a biological system. Cellular agriculture is also the next exciting field of human milk research.