Breast milk’s key ingredient benefits baby’s brain.

Breast milk's key ingredient benefits baby's brain.

The Power of Myo-Inositol: Enhancing Brain Development in Newborns


Human breast milk is a treasure trove of nutrients that support the healthy development of newborns. Recent research has highlighted the role of a lesser-known micronutrient called myo-inositol in promoting optimal brain health in infants. This fascinating discovery has implications for both breastfeeding and formula feeding infants, shedding light on how nutrition contributes to the intricate workings of the human brain.

The research, conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, examined the impact of myo-inositol on both rodents and human neurons. The findings suggest that increasing the levels of myo-inositol in infant formula could potentially benefit infants who are not breastfed.

Thomas Biederer, a senior scientist on the neuroscience and aging team at the HNRCA and a faculty member at the Yale School of Medicine, explains, “The current research does indicate that for circumstances where breastfeeding is not possible, it may be beneficial to increase the levels of myo-inositol in infant formula.”

But the benefits of myo-inositol extend beyond infancy. The study also suggests that myo-inositol may play a role in the aging brain, offering a new avenue for research into age-related brain health.

As Biederer further elaborates, “Forming and refining brain connectivity from birth is guided by genetic and environmental forces as well as by human experiences. As a neuroscientist, it’s intriguing to me how profound the effects of micronutrients are on the brain. It’s also amazing how complex and rich human breast milk is, and I now think it is conceivable that its composition is dynamically changing to support different stages of infant brain development.”

The researchers analyzed human milk samples from new mothers in different geographic locations, including Mexico City, Shanghai, and Cincinnati. Surprisingly, they found similar levels of myo-inositol across the samples, indicating its crucial role in human brain development. This discovery suggests that myo-inositol is not only important for babies in specific regions but for newborns worldwide.

During the early stages of infancy, the brain is particularly sensitive to diet because the blood-brain barrier is more permeable. This heightened sensitivity underscores the importance of providing sufficient nutrients, like myo-inositol, to support optimal brain health and development.

Although the study provides valuable insights into the benefits of myo-inositol, many questions remain unanswered. One such question pertains to the optimal level of myo-inositol required for the best brain health at various stages of development. Further research is necessary to determine the ideal amount of myo-inositol needed for infants to thrive.

“My colleagues at the HNRCA and I are now pursuing research to test how micronutrients like myo-inositol may impact cells and connectivity in the aging brain. We hope this work leads to a better understanding of how dietary factors interplay with age-related brain aberrations,” concludes Biederer.

The study findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer a glimpse into the remarkable influence of myo-inositol on brain development, both in infancy and potentially throughout life. This research opens up exciting possibilities for enhancing brain health in newborns and exploring ways to support healthy brain aging.