The next time someone tells you “I got it from my momma!” in regards to their athleticism, you might want to ask them exactly how. In a surprising twist to all the “breast is best” campaigns, grown adults are now jumping on the trend by turning to human breast milk as a sports supplement.
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“It gives me incredible energy I don’t get from other food and drinks,” Anthony, who didn’t disclose his last name, recently told New York Magazine. “I don’t believe in steroids or other energy supplements, none of that garbage… I want natural stuff that’s God-given.”
Well, breast milk is certainly natural — perhaps the most “natural” food available to human beings. It has a perfect combination of fat, protein, sugar, nutrients and water, designed to uniquely nurture the human body. In addition, breast milk contains antibodies and immunoglobulins that can help fight infection and boost the immune system, a main reason why bodybuilding proponents call it “the greatest supplement ever.”
But before you rush to your local milk bank or start eying unattended diaper bags at the park, there are some things you should know first. According to Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician and medical communications editor at Boston Children’s Hospital, while the formulation is ideal for humans, it’s really only ideal for the under-3 set. Infants build their immune systems as they grow which is why they need the immunoglobulins in breast milk — but most adults already have them.
Then there are the health risks. “Milk is a bodily fluid and can carry infections that are present in the body, such as HIV, hepatitis and others,” McCarthy said.
Plus recent studies have shown that human milk from individuals or milk obtained through the internet is at high risk for being contaminated. The FDA even issued a warning that unless you purchase the breast milk from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which dispenses breast milk only by prescription or to hospitals, your milk will not be adequately screened for disease or contamination.
Lastly, at this time, there are no scientific studies showing that human milk is actually providing the benefits to adults that message boards and enthusiasts say it does. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time an “out there” nutritional supplement is more hype than substance.
It’s so simple to find other foods that offer a solid post-workout nutritional profile, complete with protein, fat and carbs, that it seems like an unnecessary risk to take just for a few unproven benefits. Still though, it would definitely give you an interesting conversation starter at the gym when someone asks what’s in your water bottle.