Infant formula and infant nutrition: Bioactive proteins of human milk and implications for composition of infant formulas

Bo Lönnerdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


Human milk contains an abundance of biologically active components that are highly likely to contribute to the short- and long-term benefits of breastfeeding. Many of these components are proteins; this article describes some of these proteins, such as α-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, osteopontin, and milk fat globule membrane proteins. The possibility of adding their bovine counterparts to infant formula is discussed as well as the implications for infant health and development. An important consideration when adding bioactive proteins to infant formula is that the total protein content of formula needs to be reduced, because formula-fed infants have significantly higher concentrations of serum amino acids, insulin, and blood urea nitrogen than do breastfed infants. When reducing the protein content of formula, the amino acid composition of the formula protein becomes important because serum concentrations of the essential amino acids should not be lower than those in breastfed infants. Both the supply of essential amino acids and the bioactivities of milk proteins are dependent on their digestibility: some proteins act only in intact form, others act in the form of larger or small peptides formed during digestion, and some are completely digested and serve as a source of amino acids. The purity of the proteins or protein fractions, potential contaminants of the proteins (such as lipopolysaccharide), as well as the degree of heat processing used during their isolation also need to be considered. It is likely that there will be more bioactive components added to infant formulas in the near future, but guidelines on how to assess their bioactivities in vitro, in animal models, and in clinical studies need to be established. The extent of testing needed is likely going to depend on the degree of complexity of the components and their bioequivalence with the human compounds whose effects they are intended to mimic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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