Insulin, breast milk link established

If the findings of a new study are anything to go by, the hormone insulin may well be responsible for the adequacy or otherwise of production of breast milk.

The findings of the study, conducted by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of California Davis, also explain why many mothers encounter problems during lactation.

The latest research established that human mammary gland tend to become highly sensitive to insulin during the lactation process. The study is the first-of-its-kind to provide a precise description of how specific genes become more active in the human mammary gland and thus impact lactation.

Hitherto, insulin was not considered responsible for regulating the milk-making cells of the human breast. However, the latest study is likely to change that perception.

“This new study shows a dramatic switching on of the insulin receptor and its downstream signals during the breast’s transition to a biofactory that manufactures massive amounts of proteins, fats and carbohydrates for nourishing the newborn baby,” said Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, corresponding author of the study.

Research Methodology
For the purpose of the study, researchers used RNA sequencing, considered to be the next generation sequencing technology. Using this non-invasive method, they were able to divulge “in exquisite detail” the process of milk production in the human mammary gland.

The present study thus establishes that insulin has a much bigger role to play in the human body than just facilitate the uptake of sugars.

Previous work done by Nommsen-Rivers’ has revealed that certain women are more prone to encounter problems in lactation. Certain symptoms of sub-optimal glucose metabolism like obesity, being at an advanced maternal age, or delivering a heavy weight baby indicated that milk will take a long time to come in. Thus River’s previous research had also suggested that insulin has a role to play in the functioning of the mammary gland.

The findings of the present study have been published in journal PLOS ONE.

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