Go to your local Craigslist page and search for "breast milk," and you're very likely to find a new mom looking to make a couple of extra bucks off of her mammary yields. Whether you live in Los Angeles or Chicago or New York, you're almost guaranteed to stumble upon a handful of posts offering fresh or frozen human breast milk.
These offers are generally mom-to-mom, maybe from one woman with a surplus to another who can't breastfeed or doesn't produce much of her own milk. Most of the women selling say that they're simply stuck with way more milk than their baby can consume. But there's also a surprisingly open sect of adult breast milk drinkers who seek better bone health or, in some cases, "just discovered how nutritious Breast Milk is," as one poster in the Los Angeles area put it. "I was raised with farm milk and the store milk is not working for me." Of her own milk, a Long Beach-based pumper claims, "Health benefits are endless, and it tastes great."
Look closer, and you'll find that this lesser-known market for boob juice is a pretty particular audience. In this posting, for example, from Milwaukee, the seller says, "It's yours to do whatever you want with it. Good for children, cancer patients, bodybuilders, skin conditions, and more."
Yep—bodybuilders are sipping on the same stuff as infants. One forum on bodybuilding.com calls breast milk "the greatest supplement ever," claiming that Arnold Schwarzenegger downed the stuff while he was at the height of his swoll phase. Poster "Lefticle" tells his fellow iron-pumpers, "I never fully realized its potential as a supplement until I started using it as the cornerstone of my diet and started growing beyond measure." Responses to Lefticle's post are mixed: some trade tips about where to get it, such as a site called Onlythebreast.com, while others warn of the possibility of disease transmission. And then, of course, there are still boob jokes.
Breast milk—though not exactly "popular" in the true sense of the word—isn't an unheard-of supplement in the bodybuilding world. Selling for a few bucks an ounce (depending on the source), it isn't exactly cheap, either. So why bother instead of just bulking up with bovine milk?
Well, human breast milk does contain human growth hormones and anti-inflammatory compounds that could help with faster muscle recovery, as well as nutrients that boost the immune system. And it is a decent source of protein, sugar, and fat. But, according to the US Department of Agriculture's National Nutrition Database, it has much less protein than cow's milk—2.5 grams per cup, versus 7.9 grams—and much more calories, sugar, and fat, which wouldn't necessarily make it the most efficient choice for getting ripped. There is nothing specifically found in breast milk that would benefit muscle mass gain over any other beverage with similar levels of protein and fat, but word-of-mouth recommendations may be why the trend continues.
Much of the chatter about breast milk's benefits is anecdotal; bodybuilders cite its energy-boosting quality, or share stats about how much they bulked up while supplementing with it. But there hasn't been any strong scientific evidence to support the potential gains of consumption of breast milk by adults.
The main point of concern surrounding drinking a stranger's body fluids—namely, that from their breasts, and intended for their baby—is that many diseases are communicable through breast milk, including HIV. ABC News also cites a recent study's finding that 89 percent of human breast milk purchased over the internet is not kept adequately chilled during transport, increasing the risk of contamination.
A 2013 study found that the vast majority of breast milk purchased over the internet is high-risk, with 74 percent of samples containing dangerous bacterial levels. A whopping 64 percent were contaminated with Staphylococcus, better known as "staph," while 36 percent contained strep bacteria.
Women looking for breast milk for their babies can purchase from certified milk banks, which have enforced safety protocols and much lower levels of contamination.
Whether it's worth the risk for abs of steel and monster biceps—well, that's up to the gym rats who moonlight as breast milk fanatics.