Human milk is the most complete and ideal form of nutrition for the developing infant. The composition of human milk consistently changes throughout lactation to meet the changing functional needs of the infant. The human milk proteome is an essential milk component consisting of proteins, including enzymes/proteases, glycoproteins, and endogenous peptides. These compounds may contribute to the healthy development in a synergistic way by affecting growth, maturation of the immune system, from innate to adaptive immunity, and the gut. A comprehensive overview of the human milk proteome, covering all of its components, is lacking, even though numerous analyses of human milk proteins have been reported. Such data could substantially aid in our understanding of the functionality of each constituent of the proteome. This review will highlight each of the aforementioned components of human milk and emphasize the functionality of the proteome throughout lactation, including nutrient delivery and enhanced bioavailability of nutrients for growth, cognitive development, immune defense, and gut maturation.
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