TitleThe Enzymology of Human Milk
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsChan, LE, Beverly, RL, Dallas, DC
EditorKelly, AL, Larsen, LBach
Book TitleFood Engineering SeriesAgents of Change
Pagination209 - 243
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISBN Number978-3-030-55481-1

Modern mammalian milk has evolved over more than 200 million years to optimally nourish the infant (Oftedal, J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia 7(3):225–252, 2002; Lefèvre et al., Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet 11(1):219–238, 2010Q2). Milk provides the infant with essential nutrients, including high quality proteins, lipids and carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients and water. In addition to its nutrient content, milk also contains enzymes that both aid in the breakdown of macronutrients into smaller fragments for easier absorption and provide additional bioactivity and protective effects to the milk. Human milk proteases aid in protein digestion and release protein fragments—peptides—that have an array of bioactivities. Human milk lipases assist with infant lipid digestion, thus increasing absorption and, ultimately, growth. Human milk also contains an array of glycosidases, yet whether these glycosidases have important functions within milk or within the infant is not completely known. Additional enzymes in human milk include phosphatases, antioxidant enzymes and many others that are not well understood. Understanding the unique functions of enzymes in human milk may reveal key insights into improving neonatal health.