Human breast milk is considered to be the perfect food for infants, specifically adapted to their needs. Before birth, the mother transfers all the nutrients and bioactive components to the fetus through the placenta. After birth, these substances have to be transferred through colostrum and milk. In particular, human breast milk is supposed to provide all the essential trace elements that are required by the normal term newborn infant. Therefore, the composition of human breast milk and its changes during lactation is a topic of major importance and has been the subject for intensive research. Conversely, human milk can also be a transfer medium of undesirable (toxic) elements from the mother to the infant. An extensive review of the most recent literature was carried out focusing on the current trace elements levels and their changes during lactation. For several elements, there is a consistent knowledge of their characteristic concentrations throughout the various stages of lactation, their dependence on maternal nutritional status, inter-individual and geographical variability, metabolic pathways, inter-elemental relationships, and effects on child development. For many other elements, this knowledge does not exist or is quite limited.
Part of the book: Trace Elements