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Study finds spicy pepper from curry in breast milk

A new study found that breast milk can have the taste and odour of garlic or coffee, but not fish oil or nursing tea flavours.

The research was published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Research Journal.


Research into the extent of pungent substances such as pepper, ginger, and chilli found in breastmilk has been less extensive than that on aroma and taste substances. TUM’s scientific team has investigated whether these substances can be transferred from food to breastmilk and, if so which.

The team discovered that piperine can be detected in breast milk up to an hour after eating a standard curry dish.

Professor Corinna Dwid, who is the chair of food Chemistry at TUM commissary for Professor Thomas Hofmann, stated that the maximum concentrations of 14-57 micrograms per litre were approximately 70-to 350-fold below an adult’s taste threshold.

Roman Lang, who initially participated in the study at TUM as a scientist and then later at the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology, (LSB), said, “It seems quite unlikely that the infants consciously perceive this sharpness.” It is possible that TRPV1 activation could be a regular, low-threshold activity, which would help increase tolerance later on.

According to research, pungent from chilli or ginger as well as secondary plant compound curcumin (which is also found in curry) did not enter milk.

Roman Lang, head of the LSB’s Biosystems Chemistry & Human Metabolism research team at the LSB, stated that the piperine was particularly surprising because it is believed to significantly increase curcumin’s bioavailability.

“These observations were made in collaboration with our partners from the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV, and the LSB. We will continue to explore the evolution of food preferences as well as the metabolic processes involved in the transfer bioactive ingredients into breastmilk,” stated Corinna Dawid, TUM-Professor.

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