It can be shocking to learn that there are adults who drink breast milk. Bodybuilders tout the benefits of increased athletic performance, and there are also benefits claiming that consumption can cure diseases like erectile dysfunction. But is any of it real?
Why do some adults drink breast milk? What are the purported health benefits of breast milk for adults? In this article, we discuss all that and why some adults can’t seem to get enough.
Although there are health benefits of breast milk for infants, they do not continue into adulthood. Breastmilk doesn’t have the protein that adults need, and the IGF-1 that bodybuilders seek can be found in other foods. Given the health risk, it’s not worth buying unregulated breast milk online.
When Do Babies Stop Drinking Breast Milk
On average, babies stop breastfeeding around their first birthday, but it’s not unusual to continue for longer. Weaning begins at the age of six months, but according to WHO, children should continue to breastfeed until they reach two years of age while supplementing with regular food.
It should be noted that after six months of age, breast milk alone is not enough to meet the nutritional needs. This is why it’s common to start incorporating food at six months of age, like bananas, rice cereal, and other soft, easy-to-digest items. Six months of age is usually also when children begin to teethe, which is a great time to wean breastfeeding. Switching to cow’s milk comes later when the infant’s digestive system is developed enough to process the milk proteins.
Health Benefits Of Breast Milk For Babies
Breastfeeding is essential for infants. It forms the infant’s essential immunity by providing immunoglobulins passed from mother to baby. There are many health benefits for breastmilk, here are some:
- A breastfed baby is getting the correct nutrition and the antibodies that prevent many infectious diseases in infancy and early childhood.
- The health benefits of breast milk for babies include a reduced risk of developing asthma in early childhood.
- Babies who are breastfed are less likely to get eczema later in life.
- Even the longstanding claim that breastfed babies are smarter might be valid. Studies identified a positive correlation in those who were breastfed for at least one year and more. This group saw, on average, four extra points on their IQ. As the length of time of breastfeeding increased, there was a slight rise in IQ.
- People who are breastfed in infancy are less likely to develop other chronic non-communicable illnesses like diabetes and heart diseases as adults.
So, breastmilk is beneficial for babies. But what’s that got to do with adults? Why are they trying to drink breast milk?!
Breast Milk For Athletes
The discussion of breast milk for adults is prevalent in online forums that claim that breast milk is good for cancer patients and athletes, but there isn’t any scientific evidence to support the claim.
One probiotic found in breastmilk is Human Milk Oligosaccharide. This complex sugar stimulates the immune system by promoting good bacteria, strengthening the gut, and preventing pathogens. Supplements are available for purchase, but a quick search shows marketing specifically for infants, not adults. Colostrum, which is present in breastmilk directly after birth, contains Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, which bodybuilders use for muscle growth and recovery. However, both colostrum and IGF are also present in animal milk and have a similar effect on growing children as they do in developing infants.
In short, many of the purported claims about the health benefits apply to the benefits of breast milk for babies, not for adults. Evolution has modified the composition of breast milk to suit your infant’s needs and not to support an adult’s health.
Breast Milk And Cancer
While you may hear that breastmilk can cure cancer, this is simply not true. So far, breast milk is not a treatment option for cancer, despite the research being conducted on the health benefits of breast milk for cancer patients.
Studies on a protein found in breast milk, alpha-lactalbumin, as a cancer treatment have been underway for 30 years. However, these studies are using replicas of alpha-lactalbumin and not the actual protein.
Some potential may be there for prevention, but breast milk alone, just like a regular diet rich in antioxidants, cannot be used to treat cancer.
The drug made from the replicate of the protein, HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells), appears to kill tumor cells without harming healthy cells and induce spontaneous tumor cell deaths prolongs survival.
It’s essential to remember that HAMLET is not the result of fresh breast milk but a drug made of a replica of a protein in human breast milk and oleic acid, a fatty acid.
Can I Drink My Breast Milk If I’m Sick?
Many mothers have asked if drinking breast milk will help cure sickness. The answer is that there isn’t any evidence to back up any claims that it helps.
But logically speaking, it most likely would not make a difference because breastfeeding passes on your antibodies and immunity to your baby. You won’t gain anything new from your milk, as the antibodies that your body produces are also present in the milk. Ingesting it does not give any new antibodies.
While breast milk won’t ward off your cold, it may otherwise benefit your health in the long run. Moms who breastfeed their children are less likely to get breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease later in life.
Is It Safe For Adults To Buy Breast Milk?
Traditionally, websites selling breast milk are used by mothers to sell breast milk to other new moms who can’t lactate. However, today many men are using these sites to score breast milk for the supposed athletic advantage (and other unsavory reasons).
Regulated milk banks have drawn a line and make sure they are only available to parents who intend to feed their child breast milk. This means buyers are left to buy it from unregulated sources, including public post sites like Craigslist.
When breast milk is bought from unregulated, unscreened sources, there is always the risk that the breast milk could be contaminated with HIV, syphilis, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C. Breast milk banks screen for this before storage and distributing milk.
Additionally, environmental contamination such as tobacco, caffeine, toxins, etc., can enter into milk if proper care is not given while processing the milk. This can render the “clean eating” appeal of breast milk useless.
Bacteria grow well in milk. Therefore, storage of breast milk at appropriate temperatures, even when you are feeding your own expressed milk to your baby.
Unpasteurized breast milk runs the risk of being contaminated with food-borne illness. A study into breast milk purchased online found detectable bacteria in 93% of samples and gram-negative bacteria in 74% of samples. This can be the result of inadequate sanitation and sterilization, as well as improper storage and transport. This risk is not there for animal milk because the animal milk available in the market is always pasteurized. Yes, raw milk purchased from independent farms is unpasteurized, but buying and selling this milk comes with its own set of rules and regulations.
Do keep in mind that some people selling breast milk online may dilute the milk with water or other animal milk, lessening and defeating the purpose of consumption. There is no regulation to black-market breast milk sales, so there is no way to determine the quality of the milk.
Animal milk is a much better option for those looking for a nutritious, nutrient-dense beverage. You can also try a good quality protein powder as that would most likely do a better job than human breast milk.
While HAMLET is encouraging for cancer treatment, drinking breast milk for cancer might not yield the same results. Considering the associated health hazard, it’s not worth buying unregulated breast milk online for adults, as the risks outweigh any potential health benefits.