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What Are Some Specific Enzymes Present In Breast Milk?


Updated January 27, 2009

Question: What Are Some Specific Enzymes Present In Breast Milk?

Enzymes in breast milk serve a variety of functions. Here is a breakdown of the most important enzymes involved in infant digestion:

  • Amylase is the main polysaccharide-digesting enzyme. It is available in breast milk and in the pancreas after 6 months of age.
  • Lipase breaks down milk fat. This is in breast milk and the intestines. It makes free fatty acids available before digestion in the intestines.
  • Diastase speeds up the process of hydrolysis of starch to maltose.
  • Protease speeds up the process of hydrolysis of proteins.
  • Lactose synthetase speeds up the formation of lactose from glucose and UDP galactose.

The milk enzymes include:

  • Bifidus factor, which allows for the growth of beneficial bacteria; keeps the PH in the gut low; supports an "unfriendly" environment for growth of bacteria.
  • Complement allows for nonspecific body defense against inflammation.
  • Lactoperoxidase aids in the destruction of strep.
  • Oligosaccharides aid in onstructing antigens from attaching to the gastrointestinal tract.

Also related to the function of enzymes:

  • Human Growth Factors I, II, and III, which trigger RNA synthesis, cell growth and the development of intestinal tissue.
  • Lactoferrin, which is an iron-binding protein.
  • Lysozyme, which is an antimicrobial.


Lawrence RA. Breastfeeding: A Guide For the Medical Professional. St. Louis, MO: Mosby. 1999.

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