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Human breastmilk fortifiers may ward off eye disease in premature babies, finds Prolacta-backed study

Nutrition Insight Magazine

Edited by Louis Gore-Langton

8 Mar 2021--- Feeding premature infants Prolacta Bioscience’s human breastmilk-based fortifiers, as part of an exclusive human milk diet (EHMD), could reduce the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), according to a series of recent studies. 

EHMD is a recommended diet plan of only human milk for infants under six months old, followed by continued breastfeeding up until one year. Prolacta’s fortifiers are derived from human donor milk. 

ROP is an eye disease that causes abnormal development of retinal blood vessels and is a key cause of decreased vision and blindness in children worldwide, primarily affecting premature infants.

Severe ROP is also a predictor of functional disability for children, including a direct impact on their neurodevelopment. The disease is one of the main comorbidities of prematurity that hospitals are working to reduce around the world, says Prolacta. 

Four clinical trials now indicate that the incidence and severity of ROP decrease when extremely premature infants are nourished with Prolacta’s products as part of an EHMD. 

The company is drawing attention to the results to increase awareness of its Humavant line of products, which promotes EHMD over the use of cow milk.

The studies 

Prolacta is now highlighting four separate clinical trials’ cumulative results, conducted over the past five years. 

Firstly, a 2016 study showed a 55 percent relative reduction in ROP incidence in preterm infants weighing 1,500 g or less. Participants were receiving Prolacta’s fortifiers as part of an EHMD and were compared to preterm infants receiving cow milk-based fortifiers.

Similarly, another 2016 study showed multiple clinical outcome improvements in infants on the same diet, including a 42 percent relative reduction in ROP incidence in preterm infants weighing 1,250 g. 

Meanwhile, a 2018 study showed an 84 percent reduction in the incidence of severe ROP in preterm infants consuming Prolacta’s products compared to preterm infants weighing 1,250 g and receiving mother’s own milk/donor milk with cow milk-based fortifiers.

Lastly, a study from the University of Virginia in 2019 achieved a 22 percent relative reduction in ROP incidence after implementing Prolacta’s products.

“We’re encouraged by the growing body of clinical evidence proving the significant health benefits of Prolacta’s products as part of an EHMD and are especially encouraged by this data, which shows reduction in the incidence and severity of ROP,” says Melinda Elliott, chief medical officer of Prolacta. 

“Addressing premature infant complications through nutrition in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) means improved short- and long-term health benefits for each infant affected, as well as reduced hospitalizations and costs for all involved.”

Breastfeeding in the spotlight

Last year, NutritionInsight took an in-depth look at the breastfeeding space as part of World Breastfeeding Week 2020

The theme for World Breastfeeding Week was to “support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.” 

In line with this theme, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF called on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counseling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.

WHO recommends that mothers breastfeed infants for the first six months of life for optimal health. Advantages include the fact that breastmilk provides lifesaving antibodies that protect babies against many childhood illnesses.