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Our aims were to investigate the presence of pituitary glycoprotein hormones in preterm and donor milk, and to examine the effects of Holder pasteurization and refrigeration on the levels of these hormones. We measured follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in milk samples from mothers who delivered prematurely (n = 27) and in samples of mothers who delivered at term and donated milk to the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa (n = 30). The gonadotropins and TSH were present in similar amounts within human milk produced for preterm and term infants. FSH increased 21% after refrigeration (p < 0.05), while LH declined by 39% (p < 0.05). Holder pasteurization decreased LH by 24% (p < 0.05) and increased TSH by 17% (p < 0.05). Holder pasteurization followed by refrigeration resulted in a 21% increase in FSH and a 41% decrease in LH (both p < 0.05), resulting in more than a 3-fold increase in donor milk FSH:LH ratios (p < 0.05 versus fresh donor milk). Despite structural similarities, the gonadotropins are differentially impacted by Holder pasteurization and refrigeration, and this results in marked alterations in the relative amount of FSH and LH that may be administered to preterm infants, potentially swinging hormonal balance towards ovarian hyperstimulation in females and hypogonadism in males.


Réka A Vass, Robert D Roghair, Edward F Bell, Tarah T Colaizy, Karen J Johnson, Mendi L Schmelzel, Jacky R Walker, Tibor Ertl. Pituitary Glycoprotein Hormones in Human Milk before and after Pasteurization or Refrigeration. Nutrients. 2020 Mar 04;12(3)

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PMID: 32143273

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