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Epigenetic Effects of Human Breast Milk

Department of Pediatrics, San Paolo Hospital, University of Milan, Via A Di Rudinì 8, I-20142 Milan, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2014, 6(4), 1711-1724;
Received: 17 February 2014 / Revised: 2 April 2014 / Accepted: 17 April 2014 / Published: 24 April 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nutritional Epigenetics)
PDF [215 KB, uploaded 25 April 2014]


A current aim of nutrigenetics is to personalize nutritional practices according to genetic variations that influence the way of digestion and metabolism of nutrients introduced with the diet. Nutritional epigenetics concerns knowledge about the effects of nutrients on gene expression. Nutrition in early life or in critical periods of development, may have a role in modulating gene expression, and, therefore, have later effects on health. Human breast milk is well-known for its ability in preventing several acute and chronic diseases. Indeed, breastfed children may have lower risk of neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis, infectious diseases, and also of non-communicable diseases, such as obesity and related-disorders. Beneficial effects of human breast milk on health may be associated in part with its peculiar components, possible also via epigenetic processes. This paper discusses about presumed epigenetic effects of human breast milk and components. While evidence suggests that a direct relationship may exist of some components of human breast milk with epigenetic changes, the mechanisms involved are still unclear. Studies have to be conducted to clarify the actual role of human breast milk on genetic expression, in particular when linked to the risk of non-communicable diseases, to potentially benefit the infant’s health and his later life. View Full-Text
Keywords: epigenetics; human milk; breastfeeding; genetic polymorphism; nutritional programming epigenetics; human milk; breastfeeding; genetic polymorphism; nutritional programming
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Verduci, E.; Banderali, G.; Barberi, S.; Radaelli, G.; Lops, A.; Betti, F.; Riva, E.; Giovannini, M. Epigenetic Effects of Human Breast Milk. Nutrients 2014, 6, 1711-1724.

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