The University of Western Australia (UWA), with support from the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation (FLRF), is researching the impact of colostrum on an infant’s gut microbiota, immune regulation and metabolic homeostasis. They are investigating whether colostrum’s specific composition is required for gut immune maturation from birth, which will result in low susceptibility to allergy and obesity in the long-term.

“Colostrum may be the royal jelly for the newborn, bringing key elements for healthy growth and low risk of allergy. The research of my team will decipher whether this is the case. In the affirmative, we expect our research will motivate changes in early breastfeeding practices which are far from optimal in about half of the cases.” – Valérie Verhasselt, MD, PhD, Professor, Faculty of Science, School of Molecular Sciences, UWA and inaugural holder of the Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation Chair in Human Lactology at UWA

This project has been shaped by earlier findings indicating the composition of colostrum differs profoundly from mature breastmilk – both qualitatively and quantitatively (Ballard and Morrow 2013). Yet until now, the potential health impact of this first fluid produced by the mammary gland has been poorly investigated.

The investigators further intend to analyse the impact of colostrum intake, and the lack of colostrum intake, on obesity and allergy risks in adulthood. In connection, the study aims to identify those dietary and physiological factors in early life, which condition long-term health by establishing the basis for sustainable prevention of obesity and allergies.

FLRF donated nearly AUD 600,000 to the project, which is taking place at the UWA School of Molecular Sciences.


References and further reading

van den Elsen LWJ, Garssen J, Burcelin R, Verhasselt V. Shaping the Gut Microbiota by Breastfeeding: The Gateway to Allergy Prevention? Front Pediatr. 2019 Feb 27;7:47. DOI: 10.3389/fped.2019.00047. eCollection 2019.

Turfkruyer M, Verhasselt V. Breast milk and its impact on maturation of the neonatal immune system. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2015 Jun;28(3):199-206. DOI: 10.1097/QCO.0000000000000165.

He Y, Liu S, Leone S, Newburg DS. Human colostrum oligosaccharides modulate major immunologic pathways of immature human intestine. Mucosal Immunol. 2014 Nov;7(6):1326-39. DOI: 10.1038/mi.2014.20. Epub 2014 Apr 2.

Ballard O, Morrow AL. Human milk composition: nutrients and bioactive factors. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2013 Feb;60(1):49-74. DOI: 10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.002.