The “breast is best” campaign was designed to remind mothers that breast milk provides essential nutrients for their babies. Now, an odd trend is on the rise that has men seeking breast milk for its perceived health benefits for adults. Health experts are debunking this myth, and even warning that the consumption of human milk could be dangerous.
A quick Google search for “breast milk for bodybuilders” yields page after page dedicated to bringing the two together. It seems like a mutually benefiting relationship. Women sell their extra milk to men who use it as a nutritional supplement. A forum on Bodybuilding.com even declares it to be the, “Greatest supplement ever.” Unfortunately, there is no evidence to substantiate these claims.
“Body builders who believe in the power of breast milk are experiencing the placebo effect,” explains registered dietitian, Mary Hartley. “Their strength is due to their belief in the power of breast milk, not to the properties of the milk. From a nutrition standpoint, they’d be better off drinking regular dairy milk because it is nutritionally similar but it is pasteurized.”
Men who are buying breast milk from online sources, may not realize the risk they are taking for something that doesn’t even have science-based nutritional benefits. The only trusted source is the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBA). The HMBA mandates strict guidelines for donors, screens them for infections and pasteurizes the milk for safety.
With so many online forums and craigslist posts advertising for breast milk buyers, it’s important for people to realize just how many germs, diseases and other “things” breast milk can carry.
- Viruses: Human milk can carry and transmit viruses like HIV and Hepatitis
- Drugs: Many common prescription and recreational drugs are excreted into human milk. These include aspirin, Lipitor, cocaine, alcohol and marijuana, to name a few.
- Contamination: Even if the breast milk is healthy, contamination can occur through less than hygienic collection, storage and shipping methods.
A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that 74% of the breast milk samples obtained online (not from a regulated milk bank) was contaminated with bacteria including streptococcus and fecal matter.
“The protective antibodies present in human milk are of no use to adults with healthy immune systems,” Hartley reiterates.
If the effect of breast milk on adult men is just placebo, then it would seem the risk is certainly more than the reward.