Milk: what it is, composition, allergy, importance

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O milk is a secretion produced by the glands breasts of mammals and is characterized by its whitish color and made up of different nutrients, such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Milk is a source of nutrients for the offspring of different species of mammals, including humans.

Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns of our species, and should be the only food offered to children in the first six months of life. Some people are unable to digest the lactose, a condition known as lactose intolerance. Another problem related to milk is the allergy to cow's milk protein.

Read more: nutrients essential for the functioning of our body

Topics in this article

  • 1 - What is milk?
  • 2 - Composition of milk
  • 3 - Human milk
    • Composition of breast milk
    • Coloring of breast milk
    • Importance of breastfeeding
  • 4 - Lactose intolerance
  • 5 - Allergy to cow's milk protein

What is milk?

Milk is the name given to a secretion whitish coloration released by the mammary glands of mammals. It is a very nutritious secretion used in the feeding of the young of this group of

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animals shortly after his birth.

Composition of milk

Milk is a complex substance, made up of different molecules. Among its main components, we can mention:

  • Water;

  • lipids;

  • proteins;

  • carbohydrates;

  • mineral salts.

It is worth noting that the composition of milk can change according to the nutrition that the animal has.

human milk

Human milk is a safe and highly nutritious food provided by the woman to the baby early in its development. Currently, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended until the first six months of life, because, in addition to be safe and nutritious, the substance is easily digested, favors weight gain and guarantees protection immunological. After six months, it is necessary to supplement food, however, breast milk remains an important food until the child's second year of life.

  • Composition of breast milk

Breast milk has different components, such as lipids, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and mineral salts. In addition, it is rich in antimicrobial factors, enzymes digestive tract, hormones, growth factors and anti-inflammatory agents. The composition of breast milk is directly related to women's health, and it is important to highlight that nutritional deficiencies can be passed on through lactation.

In relation to lipids, the most observed type are triacylglycerols, which correspond to about 98% of the fats contained in milk. Regarding carbohydrates, lactose stands out. Proteins are mainly represented by lactalbumin. Among the mineral salts, we can highlight sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphorus, among others. the vitamins THE, of complex B, Ç, D, And is K are present in human milk.

  • Coloring of breast milk

The color of breast milk varies during feeding and is related to its composition. At the beginning of the feeding, the milk presents a coconut water look and is rich in antibodies. The substance becomes more full-bodied as the feeding takes place, presenting, in the midst of the action, a coloring whiteTheand opaque typical. This color is acquired due to the increased concentration of a protein called casein. Finally, at the end of the feeding, a coloring is observed. more yellowish due to a higher fat content.

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It is worth noting that some foods and medicines can also change the normal color of milk. Beta-carotene, for example, is a pigment found in foods like carrots and squash, which can make milk look more yellow.

  • Importance of breastfeeding

breastfeeding essential for the development of the individual, being up to six months of age the only food necessary for the survival of the newborn. Milk, during this period, is able to meet all the nutritional needs of the baby, not even being necessary to provide water or other drinks for him.

Breast milk nourishes the baby and also guarantees protection against a number of diseases, as it is rich in antibodies. Some people like to claim that he would be the first vaccine of the baby. In addition to these advantages, breastfeeding increases the bonds between the mother and her child.

Read more: Breastfeeding — the act of feeding the baby with milk directly from the mother's breast

Lactose intolerance

Glass full of milk on table, behind which a person makes a gesture of denial to it
Some people experience unpleasant symptoms after drinking milk due to lactose malabsorption.

Lactose intolerance is characterized by development of abdominal symptoms due to The a malabsorption of lactose (the main carbohydrate in milk). This malabsorption is related to the reduced ability of the body to break down lactose due to a decrease in the activity of the lactase enzyme.

At causes of lactose intolerance are varied, and may occur, for example, due to a genetic defect, intestinal diseases or even a decrease in lactase production due to aging.

Lactose intolerance is responsible for symptoms as:

  • abdominal pain;

  • diarrhea;

  • nausea;

  • discomfort;

  • gases.

The intensity of symptoms varies from one person to another and also depends on the amount of lactose ingested. In order not to suffer from them, it is important to avoid milk and dairy products and products that contain milk in their composition. If you want to know more about this problem, read: Lactose intolerance.

Allergy to cow's milk protein

Cow's milk protein allergy is the most common type of food allergy in children. It is characterized by reaction of immune system from the individual to milk proteins, in particular casein, and whey proteins. The person with this type of allergy may present symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and malabsorption, in addition to respiratory and dermatological manifestations, such as urticaria, bronchospasm and dermatitis.

According to the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, to date, there is no evidence that the mother's food restriction diet, during gestation and breastfeeding, can prevent food allergies in the child. Therefore, it is recommended that the mother does not consume cow's milk and dairy products only in cases where the child is known to be allergic to proteins. For more information on this topic, read our text: Allergy to cow's milk protein.

By Vanessa Sardinha dos Santos
Biology teacher
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