Is the Antioxidant Capacity of Stored Human Milk Preserved?

Winston Sheen, Mohamed Ahmed, Hardik Patel, Champa N. Codipilly, Richard J. Schanler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) expressed mothers' milk usually is stored frozen until used. We found that when human milk was stored at-20°C for up to 9 months there were reduced bacterial counts and pH, increased free fatty acids, but unchanged immune proteins. Antioxidant protection is an important benefit of human milk. Few studies have evaluated long-term effects of cold storage on the antioxidant capacity of human milk. We hypothesized that the antioxidant capacity of human milk is affected adversely by long-term storage at-20°C. Objective: To study the impact of long-term cold storage on the oxidative capacity of human milk and the biological impact of these changes on macromolecular constituents of human milk. Methods: Freshly expressed milk was obtained from mothers in the NICU, stored at-20°C for 6 months, and compared with the baseline. Paired samples were analyzed for glutathione, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), 8-isoprostane, catalase, and superoxide dismutase. Results: There was no change in H2O2 concentration between baseline and 6 months. Significant reductions from baseline in both catalase and superoxide dismutase concentrations and activities, total glutathione, oxidized glutathione, reduced glutathione, and the ratio of reduced to oxidized glutathione were observed (p < 0.05). There was a significant increase in 8-isoprostane concentrations (p < 0.001). Conclusion: These data indicate significant changes in antioxidant capacity of human milk, including oxidation of macromolecules, after storage at-20°C for 6 months. The clinical implication of these findings may explain the nonuniform protection against oxidant disease in preterm infants fed human milk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-567
Number of pages4
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • antioxidant capacity
  • catalase
  • glutathione
  • human milk
  • hydrogen peroxide
  • isoprostane
  • superoxide dismutase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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