A growing online craze among some fitness communities, fetishists and chronic disease sufferers for buying and drinking human breast milk poses serious health risks, British experts said on Thursday.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, specialists said there was little evidence to support claims that the milk – traded via websites in a lucrative market for adult buyers – is some kind of super food that can boost health and fitness and ward off disease.
Claims that it even helps with erectile dysfunction and cancer have no clinical basis, they said.
On the contrary, the experts warned, raw and unpasteurised human breast milk bought online can expose consumers to many serious infectious diseases, including hepatitis, HIV and syphilis.
It is also potentially very hazardous if used to replace a healthy balanced diet, Sarah Steele, a specialist at the global health and policy unit at Queen Mary University of London, wrote in the journal.
Nutritionally, she said, there is less protein in human breast milk than other milks like cow's milk.
"Potential buyers should be made aware that no scientific study evidences that direct adult consumption of human milk for medicinal properties offers anything more than a placebo effect," Steele said.
She added that failure of women to sanitise properly when producing milk, failure to sterilise equipment properly, and improper or prolonged storage and transportation of milk can also expose consumers to bacterial food-borne illnesses.
"While many online mums claim they have been tested for viruses during pregnancy, many do not realise that (such)screening needs to be undertaken regularly," Steele said.
"Sexual and other activities… may expose the women to viruses that they may unwittingly pass on to consumers."