Those who buy human breast milk via unregulated online sites are opening themselves up to the risk of diseases including hepatitis and HIV, a U.K. study has found.
Popular among bodybuilders, fetishists and other buyers including cancer patients, human breast milk is bought for its supposed "clean" nutritional benefits.
However, a study by from Queen Mary University of London has found that buyers are exposing themselves to diseases including syphilis; hepatitis B and C; and HIV if they purchase milk that is raw or not properly pasteurized.
In recent years, specialist websites and online groups have been posting online about the benefits that drinking human breast milk brings. Some say bodybuilders can "bulk up" with its protein, whilst others reportedly suggest it can provide remedy to erectile dysfunction and cancer.
Mothers strapped for cash may choose to sell online, with sites selling from as little as $1 to $5 an ounce.
The published study states that the milk can be charged at a premium rate, with sellers charging up to "four times the price for non-infant feeding sales."
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Human breast milk is as much of a threat as food-borne illnesses from other raw milk, with diarrhea and abdominal pain being short-term effects; however the researchers suggest how it can be worse.
"While many online mums claim they have been tested for viruses during pregnancy, many do not realise that serological screening needs to be undertaken regularly," Dr Sarah Steele, Lead researcher from Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement.
"Sexual and other activities in the postpartum period may expose the woman expressing to viruses (like HIV and Syphilis) that they may unwittingly pass on to consumers of the milk."
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Some sites selling the milk online, like "onlythebreast.com" will stress that sellers must conduct proper donor screenings and follow certain safety guidelines.
In addition, Dr Steele crushes any bodybuilder's belief that human breast milk will help them bulk up, by saying it merely acts as a "placebo effect".
"Nutritionally there is less protein in breast milk than other milks like cow's milk."
"Potential buyers should be made aware that there is no scientific evidence that adult consumption of human milk for medicinal properties offers anything more than a placebo effect."