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Maternal psychosocial factors determining the concentrations of transforming growth factor-beta in breast milk


Naoki Kondo, Department of Health Sciences, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering, University of Yamanashi, 1110 Shimokato, Chuo-Shi, Yamanashi 409-3898, Japan.
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To cite this article: Kondo N, Suda Y, Nakao A, Oh-Oka K, Suzuki K, Ishimaru K, Sato M, Tanaka T, Nagai A, Yamagata Z. Maternal psychosocial factors determining the concentrations of transforming growth factor-beta in breast milk. Pediatr Allergy Immunology 2011: 22: 853–861.


Background:  Cytokines in breast milk may play crucial roles in the beneficial effects of breastfeeding in protecting against allergic and infectious diseases in infants. In particular, breast milk-borne transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) has an important potential role in developing the mucosal immune system in infants. However, little is known about what factors influence TGF-β expression in human milk. We investigated whether the behavioral and psychosocial characteristics of mothers affect breast milk TGF-β levels.

Methods:  We conducted a survey of all 139 mothers who were lactating between February and October 2010 in Koshu City, Japan. Participants completed a questionnaire and provided breast milk at the health checkups for their 3-month-old child (N = 129, 93%). Breast milk was assayed for total TGF-β2 levels by ELISA. We took an exploratory approach based on linear and ordered logistic regressions to model TGF-β2 concentrations with their multiple potential determinants.

Results:  Mothers with depression or poor self-rated health had higher TGF-β2 concentrations than mothers without depression (odds ratio for a higher TGF-β2 quartile: 3.11, 95% confidence intervals: 1.03–9.37) or those reporting better health (odds ratio: 2.34, 1.21–4.55). Smoking, drinking alcohol, probiotics supplementation, social support, and maternal history of allergic diseases were not associated with milk TGF-β2 levels. Milk gathered between August and October or later in the afternoon (3–4 pm vs. 12–2 pm) contained less TGF-β2.

Conclusion:  Depression, as the consequence of psychosocial stress, may be a strong determinant of TGF-β levels in breast milk. Seasonal and daily fluctuations in milk TGF-β2 concentrations warrant further study.