Chrononutrition and Human Milk: A Review of Circadian Variation Observed in Human Milk Immune Factors

Gugulethu T. Moyo, Shera C. Thomas-Jackson, Allison Childress, John Dawson, Leslie D. Thompson, Wilna Oldewage-Theron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Breastfed infants have a reduced risk of infections and allergies. The study of chrononutrition in human milk seeks to understand the circadian variation of various human milk immune factors. Methods: Empirical studies on human milk, chrononutrition, and immune factors were searched through PUBMED, Google Scholar, and SCOPUS. Keywords included “chrononutrition,” “breastmilk composition,” “human milk,” “day-night cycles,” “sleep-wake cycles” and the names of various immune factors. After excluding duplicate articles, animal studies, studies looking at other human milk components, studies that did not collect human milk samples over a 24 hour period, and studies that were not in English, eleven studies on the topic remained and ten studies were included in the review. The excluded study had a sample size of two. Results: This review identified the circadian variation of certain immune factors found in human milk such as antibodies, complement proteins, cytokines, by-products of phagocyte activity, nucleotides, microRNAs, and antioxidants. Conclusion: The circadian variation observed in some human milk components highlights the unique ability of human milk to vary in composition based on the circadian rhythms of mothers and infants. The limited number of studies makes it difficult to make conclusive recommendations and creates an opportunity for further research in this growing field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-17
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Lactation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • antibodies
  • cytokines
  • diurnal
  • lactation
  • microRNAs
  • nucleotides


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