Design in Infant Nutrition
by Rex D. Russell, M. D.
By definition, evolutionary scientists believe that life came through random chance processes, including natural selection. However, in nature there is a chorus of voices with the message that evolutionary theory does not blend with either simple or complex observations. In order to maintain good health, the following must be present simultaneously and in proper balance: organic vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, eight essential amino acids, and unrefined carbohydrates. These are all present in human breast milk, as are hundreds of other less-well understood food factors. In this article, we will see that the more the human breast and its milk are studied, the more obvious it is that neither random chance nor survival of the fittest could explain their design and complexity.
Paul Palma, M.D., and Eugene Adcock, M.D., of the University of Texas Medical Center, along with Dr. Buford Nichol of the Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston, Texas, are among the many researchers who have discovered some amazing facts about human milk. In their studies, macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, immunological factors and psychosocial factors were analyzed. Their results are discussed below.
The calorically important components of milk are the macro-nutrients.
- Carbohydrates: lactose, a disaccharide, composed of glucose and galactose.
- Lipids: polyunsaturated long and medium chain fatty acids.
- Proteins: nitrogen-containing compounds in the form of long chains of amino acids.
The caloric content and the nutrient balance of the mother's milk change dramatically according to the infant's needs. Our most brilliant neonatologists with the best computers could not design a better balanced product for an infant regardless of his needs at whatever age or stage of development.
The concentration of these nutrients is dramatically affected by two factors: the duration of gestation before birth (is the baby premature or mature at birth); and the stage of lactation.
Lipids: The premature infant has increased caloric needs. Fifty percent of milk's caloric content comes from lipids. The milk provided for a premature infant has more lipids than the breast milk for a mature or term infant. At this time the mother's milk also has higher levels of lipases, enzymes which make the lipid content bioavailable to the infant. But it must be fresh, for lipases deteriorate in pooled mother's milk or cow's milk, particularly if it has been pasteurized.
Proteins: It is now known that during the first month of lactation, the nitrogen and protein content decline. However, the premature mother's milk is as much as 20% higher in proteins. In evolutionary terms, this weak premature infant should be culled out by a survival of the fittest process, but three advantages for the premature have been found in this well-designed milk.
- The ratio of cysteine to methionine is high, thereby overcoming the limited biosynthetic capabilities of the premature child to produce cysteine.
- Taurine, aminoethylsulfonic acid, which may be essential for neonates, is present in high concentrations in the mother's milk for prematurely born infants. Taurine is very low in cow's milk.
- The potentially toxic aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine, and tyrosine, are lower in concentration in human milk than in animal's milk. Human milk proteins are more easily assimilated by the child than the proteins in animals' milk. Some of these proteins are absolutely vital for the healthy development of the infant's immune system.
Lactose: Lactose and the enzyme lactase, which greatly accelerates lactose digestion, are balanced in the milk at concentrations ideally suited for the maturity of the baby.
In summary, the design of the milk is perfect in caloric content, amino acid concentrations, and in the enzyme concentrations of both lipase and lactase, ideally meeting the infant's needs. Its make-up far surpasses that of any formula, or even milk from animal sources.
Lactation can be divided into three stages: the early milk or colostrum; transitional milk, from one to four weeks; and mature milk, changing as the baby ages.
Also, during a single meal the concentration of the milk even changes between early feeding and the late feeding time. Theories as to why suggest that these changes stabilize the volume of fluid in the baby's circulatory system.
Where would the human be if the first mother's breast had not yet developed the ability to produce just one of several specific enzymes to speed the digestion of the lactose, lipids, or proteins found in her milk? What if one of the essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc., were not in a bioavailable form or in optimal concentrations in the first mother's milk? The human kind would not have existed through one generation. Certainly a Designer is a necessity. Random chance equals no chance in the case of life and death. Time for development equals death before the complex enzymes could develop.
Survival of the fittest? Why would a random process protect the weak, premature infant with such a complexly designed, ever-changing milk? The Designer says that His strength was made perfect through weakness.
If the study of the macro-nutrients in milk is not convincing, take a brief look at the micro-nutrients. Micro-nutrients include vitamins and minerals. They are found in very small concentrations. Hundreds of other nutrients are also in breast milk; we do not know how most of them function. One of the functions that is known is to enhance the bioavailability (or ease of utilization) of other micro-nutrients. Researchers many years ago wrongly concluded that human breast milk did not have vitamin D, and supplemental formulas were recommended. Years later it was learned that a liquid soluble type of vitamin D, formerly undetected and unique to breast milk, was present which totally met the needs of the infant when combined with the unknown food factors in milk. The whole complex design is greater than the sum of its individual components and greater than our ability to understand.
Iron and zinc are similar examples in human breast milk. The breast-fed baby has no need for supplements. However, cow's milk, formulas, and pooled pasteurized human milk all need supplements to prevent deficiencies.
The early milk, or colostrum, sets in motion the infant's immunoreactive system. There are two classes of immunoactive components in the early milk; cells and soluble protein factors. Human milk is a truly living fluid in which antibodies and cells move about. The cells in the mother's milk not only attack bacteria that may be harmful to the baby, but apparently they have the ability to produce antibodies that destroy bacteria and viruses as well. Evidently the infant who is exposed to infections and nurses from its mother, also produces changes in the mother's breast. Within hours the next milk contains antibodies and immunoglobulins to protect the baby before the infant exhibits visible symptoms.
There are many other advantages for breast feeding which have not been mentioned in this article. We should at least mention the more tender benefits to both mother and child of breast feeding. The close contact entails tactile, auditory, olfactory, and visual interchange which reinforce bonding. This deepening relationship may even be more important than the advantages discussed above.
These virtues have been observed in many studies. The longer the duration of breast feeding, the more measurable the quality of mother-child bonding. Benefits have been noted for nursing up to two years after birth. There is also a significantly lower risk of child abuse and failure to thrive. These characteristics of mother's milk and breast feeding would indicate an extensive design which makes the practice "very good" for healthy, weak, and sickly infants.
Psalm 8:2: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."
This verse has two words speaking of a suckling nursing babe. It also indicates that an infant has special strength against his enemy. Is there any evidence that infants have prolonged benefits from the mother's milk or that the parent might also be stronger? Infants who have been breast-fed have been studied up to five years of age. They have a much lower incidence of diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, vomiting, asthma, earaches, childhood allergies, and crib death. Also, viral and bacterial infections, cancers, and learning disabilities are less of a problem, as are psychological problems. Parents of these children will be spared much anguish and will also avoid costly medical care.
Furthermore, in the New England Journal of Medicine (vol. 330, 1994, p. 81), the incidence of breast cancer was shown to be decreased by 25% in women proportional to the amount of time that they have breast-fed infants during their lives.
"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). How many have suffered because man thought he had a better idea and recommended baby formulas with supplements instead of the real thing? The value of a formula today is measured by how close it can come to the mother's milk, but still they fall short.
Is there any way random chance (even controlled by "Mother Nature," "Mother Earth," or millions of mutations) could produce such an awesome product? If the mother's milk was not well-designed from the beginning, humankind would be extinct. Human milk cries the message of design! Time (years, or millions of years) would be the enemy of humans if this milk were not fully designed from the beginning. Thank the Creator!
- Nichols, B.L. Nichlos, V.N. "Lactation." in Barnes, L.A., ed., Advances in Pediatrics, vol, 26 Chicago: Yearbook Medical Publishers, Inc., 1979, pp. 136-61.
- Palma, P.A., Adcock III, E.W. "Human Milk and Breast-feeding." Practical Therapeutics, 1981, vol. 24, pp. 123-181.
*Dr. Russell is interested in the health benefits gained by obedience to the Creator's ordinances and commands. Heis a vascular invasive radiologist at Holt Krock, Ft. Smith, Arkansas. He trained at Holt Krock and at the Mayo Clinic.