In the Netherlands, a University of Amsterdam study showed that young mice that grow up in stressful circumstances go on to have fewer cognitive impairments and memory problems as adults if they are given enriched breast milk. In both humans and other animals, severe stress in early childhood has been shown to result in impaired brain development and health issues later in life.
The researchers created two groups of mice – stressed and control – and then gave half of the stressed mother mice a dietary supplement containing various nutrients which the body is unable to produce on its own. The results showed that the young of stressed mothers with supplemented nutrition were more similar to the control group growing up under normal circumstances.
To begin to understand whether human mothers and babies under serious stress react similarly to mice, the group will investigate whether the nutritional content of human breast milk also changes under stress.