Inflammation of the mammary gland is a painful and common problem for breastfeeding women. Problems can be of a passing inflammatory nature or it may involve long term problems with severe symptoms. In cases where infection cannot be identified, inflammation may be the cause. A new theory has presented the possibility that sub-clinical mastitis may also increase the risk of transmitting HIV-1 from mother to child.
Earlier studies had shown that women in developing countries had measurable amounts of AF in breast milk. The amounts exceeded those measured in women in the industrial world. It was therefore decided to perform a randomised double-blind study on breastfeeding mothers in Sweden at the Karolinska Hospital.
12 women were given AF inducing cereals (SPC-Flakes®) 3-7 days post partum.16 women acted as controls, given cereals without AF-inducing ability. In the treated group only one woman developed mastitis compared to six women in the control group. Three women in the control group were diagnosed with mastitis twice and one woman three times (p=0,0086). The only woman who developed mastitis in the treatment group had misunderstood the dosage and only ate SPC on weekdays, not weekends as well.
AF levels in breast milk were measured before and after treatment. AF levels were significantly higher in the AF treated group, mean 1,1 AF unit/ml breast milk (0,7-1,25), compared to the control group, mean 0,1 AF unit/ml breast milk (0,0-0,25) (p<0,0001). The AF levels of women with mastitis were significantly lower, 0,0 AF units/ml breast milk (0,0-0,1), than the levels of women who did not have mastitis, 0,5 units/ml breast milk (0,2-1,1) (p=0,017). The one woman in the active treatment group who did develop mastitis had the lowest AF level in the group.
The study showed that an AF level in breast milk above 0,5 units/ml is protective against mastitis. This result is concurrent with the results seen in the animal studies, in which the same level is enough to protect the offspring from developing diarrhoea (Lange and Lönnroth, 2001).
These results can be of great importance to developing countries since diarrhoeal diseases are still a great problem. It is of course also of great importance if
AF-inducing cereals (SPC-Flakes®) have the ability to reduce subclinical mastitis and thereby may reduce the risk of HIV-1 being transferred from an HIV-positive mother to her child.
Svensson, Lange, Lönnroth, Widström and Hanson, Induction of antisecretory factor in human milk may prevent mastitis, Acta Paediatrica Scandinavia 93:1228-1231, 2004, view link