The Health Benefits of Breast Milk for Adults Myths, Facts

Breast milk has been praised for centuries as the ultimate source of nutrition for infants, providing them with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies to support growth and development. However, in recent years, there has been growing curiosity about whether adults can also benefit from consuming breast milk. This article aims to explore whether there are any actual health benefits of drinking breast milk for adults and consider the scientific evidence, ethical considerations, and cultural implications.

Breast Milk Composition

Breast milk is a complex substance, containing a unique blend of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies. It is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of infants, with each component serving a particular purpose in supporting their growth and development. The primary elements of breast milk include:

  • Lactose: A carbohydrate that provides energy and helps support the development of the infant’s brain.
  • Proteins: Primarily casein and whey, providing essential amino acids for growth and development.
  • Fats: Including essential fatty acids like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which plays a crucial role in brain development.
  • Antibodies and Immunoglobulins: These help protect infants from infections and illnesses.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: A broad range, including vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, and iron.

Given this comprehensive composition, it’s no wonder that breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition. But do these properties translate into health benefits for adults?

Claims of Health Benefits for Adults

Advocates for adult consumption of breast milk often claim that its nutritional profile can offer various health benefits. Some of the suggested benefits include:

  1. Boosted Immune System: Since breast milk contains antibodies and immunoglobulins, proponents argue that it can enhance the adult immune system, providing additional protection against infections and illnesses.
  2. Enhanced Athletic Performance: Some athletes believe that the high protein and fat content in breast milk can help with muscle recovery and provide an energy boost.
  3. Improved Digestion: Lactose, the primary carbohydrate in breast milk, is known to support gut health, suggesting that it could aid in digestion for adults as well.
  4. Anti-Cancer Properties: A component of breast milk called HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells) has been found to kill cancer cells in laboratory studies, leading some to speculate that breast milk could have anti-cancer properties for adults.

While these claims sound promising, it’s important to examine the scientific evidence supporting them.

Scientific Evidence and Challenges

The current scientific evidence supporting the health benefits of breast milk for adults is limited. Here’s a closer look at the claims mentioned above and what the research says:

  1. Boosted Immune System: While breast milk does contain antibodies and immunoglobulins, these components are specifically designed to support infant immunity. It’s unclear whether they would have a significant impact on the adult immune system, as adults have a more developed immune system and different nutritional needs.
  2. Enhanced Athletic Performance: There is no substantial scientific evidence to support the claim that breast milk can enhance athletic performance in adults. The protein content in breast milk is lower than that of many conventional protein supplements, and the caloric intake might not be sufficient for rigorous athletic training.
  3. Improved Digestion: Although breast milk contains lactose, it’s worth noting that many adults are lactose intolerant, making it difficult for them to digest lactose. This can lead to digestive issues such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
  4. Anti-Cancer Properties: While studies have shown that HAMLET can kill cancer cells in laboratory settings, no evidence consuming breast milk in adults would have a similar effect. Further research is needed to determine if this property has any practical implications for adult health.

Overall, the scientific evidence supporting health benefits for adults from drinking breast milk is limited and inconclusive.

Ethical and Practical Considerations

Apart from the lack of scientific evidence, there are ethical and practical considerations when discussing the consumption of breast milk by adults:

  1. Ethics of Breast Milk Sourcing: Breast milk is primarily intended for infants, and sourcing it for adult consumption raises ethical concerns. Should adults be encouraged to consume a resource designed for infants, especially when there’s a need for donor breast milk in neonatal care units?
  2. Cost and Accessibility: Breast milk is a scarce resource, and its production requires significant effort from mothers. It is often used in neonatal care for premature or sick infants. Diverting it for adult consumption could impact those who need it most.
  3. Safety and Hygiene: Breast milk, if not properly handled or stored, can become contaminated with bacteria or other harmful pathogens. For adults, this could lead to health risks rather than benefits.
  4. Cultural and Social Implications: Drinking breast milk as an adult might be considered taboo or socially unacceptable in many cultures. This could lead to stigmatization and misunderstandings.


While there has been a growing curiosity about the potential health benefits of drinking breast milk for adults, the scientific evidence does not support the claims made by advocates. Additionally, there are ethical and practical considerations that must be taken into account when discussing the use of breast milk by adults.

In summary, breast milk remains an essential source of nutrition for infants, but its benefits do not seem to extend to adults in a significant or practical way. The focus should remain on ensuring that breast milk is available for infants who need it, rather than promoting its use for adult consumption without sufficient evidence to justify such practices. If adults are seeking health benefits, there are numerous other evidence-based approaches and nutritional sources that are better suited to their needs.

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