Scientists investigating the contents of human milk have discovered a previously unreported indole alkoid called hypaphorine in the milk of some lactating mothers. Hypaphorine was first identified from tropical pea seeds back in 1889, and although over 100 years have passed we still do not have a complete understanding of the biological role of this compound.
After discovering it in the milk, the scientists checked for levels in food and found high levels in lentils, peanuts and chickpeas. It was not detected in black beans, green beans or infant formula derived from soya bean.
According to the paper, hypaphorine intake has been studied in animals and there have been suggestions it could have therapeutic implications in cancer. It has also been shown to induce sleep in mice and increase length of non rapid eye movement sleep in mice, as well as significantly reducing plasma glucose in diabetic rats.
Just what effects this compound has on mother and baby are still unknown and further investigation is suggested by the authors.