Human milk is the optimal food for human infants, including infants born prematurely. In the event that a mother of a hospitalized infant cannot provide breast milk, donor milk is considered an acceptable alternative. It is known that the macronutrient composition of donor milk is different than human milk, with variable fat content and protein content. However, much less is known about the micronutrient content of donor milk, including nutritional antioxidants. Samples of breast milk from 12 mothers of infants hospitalized in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit until were collected and analyzed for concentrations of nutritional antioxidants, including α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein + zeaxanthin, retinol, and α-tocopherol. Additionally, a homogenized sample of donor milk available from a commercial milk bank and samples of infant formulas were also analyzed. Concentrations of nutritional antioxidants were measured using high-performance liquid chromatography. Compared to breast milk collected from mothers of hospitalized infants, commercially available donor milk had 18%–53% of the nutritional antioxidant content of maternal breast milk. As donor milk is becoming a common nutritional intervention for the high risk preterm infant, the nutritional antioxidant status of donor milk–fed premature infants and outcomes related to oxidative stress may merit further investigation.
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