The research findings highlight the importance of Myo-inositol, a small cyclic sugar molecule found in breast milk, in promoting the formation of neural connections in the brains of infants. This discovery provides crucial insights into how breast milk’s bioactive compounds, beyond its nutritional value, play a role in supporting the developmental processes of the infant brain.

The researchers started their study by analyzing breast milk samples donated by mothers from different geographical locations (Cincinnati, Mexico City, and Shanghai) over the lactation period. They were interested in identifying micronutrients that showed consistent changes throughout lactation and might have significant biological significance.

“The effects of micronutrients on the brain are really under-appreciated,” speaks Thomas Biederer, PhD, associate professor of neurology and principal investigator. “As a neuroscientist, our findings were stunning to me.”

The researchers discovered that Myo-inositol was present in high concentrations in all breast milk samples during early lactation and gradually decreased over time. Importantly, this pattern was consistent across all three locations, suggesting its universal importance in breast milk. “The molecule is very robustly controlled by the mother,” speaks Biederer.

To understand the impact of Myo-inositol on brain development, the team conducted experiments using various models, including cultured human neurons and brain tissue. They found that the sugar molecule enhanced synapse abundance in neurons, which are crucial for transmitting signals between nerve cells, and promoted improved neuronal connectivity.

This study sheds light on why breast milk positively influences infants‘ cognitive development and underscores the importance of understanding breast milk’s complexity beyond its role as a source of nourishment. The presence of Myo-inositol in breast milk and its role in supporting neural connectivity in the infant brain emphasizes the significance of dietary choices and their impact on brain function. However, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms underlying these effects and explore potential applications in supporting brain development in infants.

The value of breast milk

The study’s findings highlight the significant value of breast milk in supporting the formation of connections in an infant’s brain. “Our study demonstrates that breast milk is extremely valuable in how mothers can support the formation of connections in an infant’s brain,” speaks Biederer. “It truly shows the importance of valuing the complexity of breast milk. It’s not just a source of calories, but an extremely rich, complex biofluid, and the mother’s body is really attuned to changing the composition of breast milk to match what the infant needs at different stages of development.”

As research in this field progresses, it may provide valuable information for parents, healthcare providers, and policymakers to emphasize the importance of breastfeeding and support practices that optimize infant brain development. Additionally, it may contribute to the development of novel nutritional interventions for infants who cannot receive breast milk, potentially improving their brain development outcomes. However, as with any scientific inquiry, further investigation is necessary to fully comprehend the complexities of breast milk’s role in brain development across different stages of infancy and early childhood.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a health advice. We would ask you to consult a qualified professional or medical expert to gain additional knowledge before you choose to consume any product or perform any exercise.

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