Early Life Nutrition
Enabling infant formula to hold more of the health benefits of mother’s milk
''Breastfeeding always provides the best nutrition for infants”
The benefits of breast milk are well known. Mothers of course want to give their babies the very best. But, the reality is that not every mother can breastfeed, either exclusively or at all.
Human milk, the only substance that evolved to both feed and protect us, however seems to contain a treasure trove of medicines just now being unlocked by scientists.
At the forefront of breast milk’s potential lies a diverse set of sugar molecules called Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO).
Milk contains a treasure trove of bio-active molecules
In addition to nourishing a baby with milk fats, proteins and ordinary sugars such as lactose, breast milk harbors complex HMO sugars that a newborn largely cannot digest.
These Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) are diverse, biologically active components that beneficially modulate the infant microbiota as well as gut health, immune system, and support neurological development.
Over 150 types of these oligosaccharides, formed by various combinations of five basic sugars help cultivate an infant’s microbial garden and provide many indirect benefits.
“Prebiotic effect: feeding the good guys”
Healthy, full-term, breast-fed infants tend to have a gut microbiota dominated by various species of the oligosaccharide-consumer Bifidobacterium.
These ‘good’ bacteria are consuming some of the Human Milk Oligosaccharides, giving the good guys a leg up over the less desirable ones.
Newborns with a healthy gut microbiome are apt to thrive and may more easily fend off potentially pathogenic microbes and viruses.
More than prebiotics …
Advanced defense against bad microbes
Disease causing microbes can attach themselves onto cells of a newborn’s intestines by binding to sugar-rich receptors that cover these cells. Once attached, the pathogens can colonize and infect the tissues.
But Human Milk Oligosaccharides found in breast milk can act as decoys, snagging undesirables and tagging them for removal. Another defense involves oligosaccharides inducing cells to populate their surfaces with unwelcoming receptors by modifying which genes get switched on in the cell nucleus. This thwarts pathogen binding.
Breast milk vs. cow’s milk oligosaccharides
Oligosaccharides are at least 20 times more abundant in human breast milk than of cow’s milk, making it difficult to use cows as a source of these protective sugars.
But also many of the oligosaccharide structures found in human milk are essentially absent or exist in only trace amounts in bovine milk.
Fucose, a monosaccharide that in human milk adorns up to 70 percent of oligosaccharides, tending to lend them pathogen-blocking powers. The fucosyllactoses, most notably 2′-fucosyllactose are therefore a prime target for large scale production to make infant formula much more like breast milk.
The Inbiose difference …
Inbiose is already making it possible to produce large quantities of HMOs enabling supplementation to infant formula, with the goal of supporting the gut microbiota composition and developmental outcomes more similar to that of the breastfed infant.
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