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Human milk odour profiles

: Buettner, Andrea


Zibadi, S.:
Handbook of dietary and nutritional aspects of human breast milk
Wageningen: Wageningen Acad. Publ., 2013 (Human health handbooks 5)
ISBN: 978-90-8686-209-2
DOI: 10.3920/978-90-8686-764-6
Book Article
Fraunhofer IVV ()

The odorous fraction of human milk is of particular interest to researchers in diverse disciplines such as biology, food sciences and chemistry. It is believed to play an important role with regard to a neonate's immediate acceptance or preference responses during feeding. Studies on the latter have shown that infants not only respond in quite differentiated ways to the smell of human milk in comparison to formula, but that their response to specific milk odours changes according to their stage of development; for example, it has been reported that they are able to discriminate between the smell of colostrum and that of mature milk. There is also evidence that breastfed babies respond differently to new foods being introduced into their diet upon weaning as compared to formula fed infants. Furthermore, there are reports of decreased neophobia or a higher preference of the infants for foods that their breastfeeding mothers consumed during pregnancy. Such observations are commonly attributed to the supposedly changing flavour sensations originating from the maternal breast milk, with such flavour changes believed to be closely linked to dietary influences. Accordingly, odorant transfer from the maternal diet into breast milk is assumed to play a major role for sensory changes of milk odour as well as behavioural changes of the babies in response to these sensations. Nevertheless, sound analytical data on the underlying transfer processes of flavour compounds into human milk are scarce; likewise, the scientific discussion of such processes with regard to the physiological and biochemical parameters involved is lacking, despite such aspects potentially playing a crucial role in aroma transmission into human milk. This article summarises interdisciplinary scientific knowledge relating to the issue of how odour profiles of human milk may be formed, thereby primarily addressing chemical and physiological aspects, with further consideration of related behavioural and sensory characteristics.