Breast milk is often called the “original superfood” because of the abundance of nutrients and natural antibodies passed from mother to child. However, a new study shows something else may be hiding in breast milk these days: added sugar.
Some sugars (such as lactose) are found naturally in breast milk, but researchers from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine are concerned by the amount of fructose that appeared in the breast milk of 25 mothers involved in a recent study. That’s because fructose—or fruit sugar—is widely used as a sweetener in processed foods and beverages and has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Study authors concluded that the “secondhand sugar” was coming from the mothers’ diets, and they caution that even in small amounts fructose may be harmful to developing babies. “Other studies have shown that fructose and artificial sweeteners are particularly damaging during critical periods of growth and development in children. We are beginning to see that any amount of fructose in breast milk is risky,” said lead author Michael Goran.
Study results, published recently in the journal Nutrients, revealed that just 10 mg of fructose (which they compared to a grain of rice) may be detrimental to healthy development and may interfere with normal metabolic function and brain growth. Authors caution women who are pregnant or breastfeeding to pay close attention to their added sugar intake.