Nourishing Babies with Goat Milk

Many parents today use traditional infant formulas to provide nourishment to their babies. The use of goat milk as infant formula is the most comparable to human breast milk. Goat milk offers many benefits for infant nutrition over cow milk not only since it is less reactive but also due to its similar oligosaccharide profile to human milk, easily digested fats and proteins, high levels of certain essential minerals and vitamins and its ability to support the immune system, nervous system and brain health.

INTRODUCTION

Each day around the world 335,000 babies are born and of these babies 50 percent will be fed infant formula before the age of 6 months old. There is no denying that breast milk is the best nutritional option for babies however there are often many elements that come into play to make breastfeeding not an option – from the mother’s ability to produce enough milk and latching issues with the baby, to many lifestyle factors where often the mother needs to go back to work early.

Hypersensitivity to cow milk proteins is one of the main food allergies and affects mostly but not exclusively infants [8]. Whilst nearly all children under the age of 3 have circulating milk antibodies it is believed about 7% of children in the US alone have symptoms of cow milk allergy [4]. The prevalence of primary lactose intolerance is estimated to be 7 to 20% for people of Caucasian descent, 65 to 75% for African descent, over 90% in some Asian populations and approximately 70% in Australian Aboriginal populations [12,13,14].

Goats milk has been identified as a significant opportunity for treating people who have cow milk allergies and gastrointestinal disorders, which is a significant segment in many populations of developing countries [3].


Human Milk Oligosaccharides

Apart from lactose the carbohydrates in human milk are generally known as oligosaccharides, with human mature milk and colostrum containing 12~13 g/l and 22~24 g/l of these oligosaccharides [1]. Human milk oligosaccharides are believed to be beneficial due to their anti-infective and prebiotic properties [5]. The majority of human oligosaccharides actually reach the infants colon where they have a prebiotic effect by stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacterium [1]. A small amount of the oligosaccharides are absorbed intact and these are believed to have immunomodulating effects [1].

Between 40 to 100% of people allergic to cow milk proteins tolerate goat milk [4]. It has been concluded that goat milk is hypoallergenic when compared to cow milk [10].


GOAT MILK BENEFITS

Reviews of scientific data suggests that goat milk possesses many advantages over cow milk for use as a nutritional food source for infants and children [2] when looking at the total solid, fat, protein, lactose, mineral and vitamin contents [7].

Some key benefits of goat milk include:

Oligosaccharides

  • Goat milk has a relatively high concentration of oligosaccharides in comparison to other milks and has the oligosaccharide profile closest to that of human milk [5,6]
  • Goat milk rich in oligosaccharides is important in its protective function of intestinal flora against pathogens and in brain and nervous system development [7]
  • Cow colostrum contains only approximately 1 g/l of oligosaccharides and this level decreases rapidly in 48 hours’ post-partum [1]

Proteins

  • The b-casein/as1-casein ratio (70%/30%) of goat milk proteins is similar to human milk, which results in more digestibility when compared to cow milk in relation to the higher sensitivity of b-casein to the protease enzymes [7]
  • b-casein is the major fraction in goat casein, which is similar to human casein and different to cow casein [8]

  • The higher protein, nonprotein N and phosphate in caprine milk give it greater buffering capacity compared to cow milk [4]

  • Goat milk proteins are digested faster than cow milk proteins [11]

  • The peptide mappings of goat b-lactoglobulin and a-lactoglobulin are completely different to cow milk [8]

  • Goat milk lacking a-s1-casein, which is the main casein in cow milk, is less allergenic than goat milk with a-s2-casein, which is more typical for many goat breeds [8]

  • Compared to cow milk the amount of a-s1-casein in goat milk is lower (62.8%; P < 0.05) [9]

Lipids

  • In goat milk, there are high levels of short and medium chain fatty acids which have recognised value for many disorders and diseases [3]

  •  Lipids of goat milk provide better digestibility with small fat globule size and high short- and medium-chain fatty acids content [7]

  • Goats milk has higher amounts of conjugated linolenic acids which play an important role in immune stimulation, growth promotion and disease prevention [7]

  • Goat milk has smaller fat globules, a higher percentage of short and medium chain fatty acids and softer curd formation of its proteins all lead to goat milk being easier to digest than cow milk as well as having a healthy lipid metabolism [4]

  • Medium chain fatty acids (C6-14) were higher in goat milk (28.8%; P < 0.05), as is n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (10.0%; P < 0.05), n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (51.0%; P < 0.05) and conjugated linoleic acid (33.8%; P < 0.05) [9]

Minerals

  • The bioavailability of minerals in goat milk is higher than of minerals in cow milk [7]
  • Of significance is the higher vitamin A content in goat milk compared to cow milk [7]
  • Goats milk has a higher iron bioavailability than cow milk [4]
  • The quantities of Ca, P, Mg and Cu are greater in goat milk ash versus cow milk – 17.4%, 15.6%, 16.3% and 66.6% respectively [9]

Conclusion

In summary goat milk offers many benefits for infant nutrition over cow milk not only since it is less reactive but also due to its similar oligosaccharide profile to human milk, easily digested fats and proteins, high levels of certain essential minerals and vitamins and its ability to support the immune system, nervous system and brain health. It can therefore be concluded that goat milk may be more natural alternative to cow milk as less interference needs to be done on the part of the manufacturer to have a high-quality breast milk alternative product. To ensure this nutritional superiority is kept it is also essential that exposure to heat during production is kept to a minimum.

Rachel Aldridge, ARONAH, LittleOak Organics Nutrition Advisory Board, Member.

 

References

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