Characteristics and potential functions of human milk adiponectin

Newburg DS, Woo JG, Morrow AL.
J Pediatr. 2010 Feb;156(2 Suppl):S41-6.


Adiponectin is a protein hormone produced by adipose tissue, whose circulating levels are inversely related to adiposity and inflammation. Adiponectin circulates as oligomers, from the low-molecular-weight trimer to the high-molecular-weight octodecamer (18 mer). Each oligomer has distinct biological activities, which include enhancement of insulin sensitivity and metabolic control and suppression of inflammation. Adiponectin occurs in human milk at higher concentrations than leptin.

The adiponectin in human milk is almost entirely of the high-molecular-weight form, the form with the highest activity in controlling many types of metabolic processes. Human adiponectin fed to infant mice is transported across the intestinal mucosa into the serum. An inverse relationship between adiponectin levels in milk and adiposity (weight-for-height) of the breast-fed infant was observed and could be due to modulation of infant metabolism by milk adiponectin and may be related to the observed protection against obesity by breast-feeding. Human milk may be a medium whereby the hormonal milieu (in response to internal factors and the environment) of the mother can be used to communicate with the breast-fed infant to modify infant metabolic processes. Transmission of information from mother to infant through milk may allow adaptation to fluctuating environmental conditions.


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