Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are specific prebiotics where ongoing research is showing continuously more health benefits in favor for several application possibilities. Adding HMOs to infant formula is the most prominent one today, as it is a clear fit: HMOs portray the third most abundant solid component in human breast milk with health benefits. In fact, they are only found in human breast milk in this high complexity and not in other types of milk such as cow’s milk – which is usually the base for infant formula. HMOs can therefore bring infant formula closer to mother’s milk.
The HMOs may support the well-balanced development of the infant’s immune system1 and gut microbiome2 Further associated benefits are reducing the risk of bacterial imbalance3 through promoting a healthy gut microbiome, maturing and maintaining the integrity of the intestine4 and that they may support brain development5.
Our HMO research team is going even further and investigates beneficial HMO applications for food supplements and for food for special medical purposes. Applications for general immune support across life stages, support during pregnancy and in early childhood, or to accompany healthy aging, represent some of our research areas.
Prebiotics and probiotics can benefit from each other
HMOs are prebiotics, which are types of dietary fiber that the human body cannot digest, serving as ‘food’ for probiotics. That makes them synergistic with probiotic strains, and together these two ingredients may help to support a well-balanced microbiota and support the development of a normal immune function.
The development of a highly bifidobacterial dominated microbiota is helpful for intestinal health later in life6, and it develops during the first years of our lives. HMOs contribute to a good start in life by developing a bacterial profile, dominated by Bifidobacteria.7
Chr. Hansen has been pioneering science for more than a century and we see significant potential in the future by leveraging and expanding our knowledge of both probiotics and HMOs to identify cross-benefits from specific combinations in the human health space.
1 Göhring et al., 2016, Ayechu-Muruzabal et al., 2018.
2 Gotho et al., 2018, Kostopoulus et al., 2020.
3 Asadpoor et al., 2020.
4 Natividad, Jane M., et al. "Blends of Human Milk Oligosaccharides Confer Intestinal Epithelial Barrier Protection In Vitro." Nutrients 12.10 (2020): 3047.
5 Berger et al., 2020.
6 Mohammadkhah, Anica I., et al. "Development of the gut microbiome in children, and lifetime implications for obesity and cardiometabolic disease." Children 5.12 (2018): 160.
7 Thomson, Pamela, and Daniel Garrido. "Human milk oligosaccharides and health promotion through the gut microbiome." Dairy in Human Health and Disease Across the Lifespan. Academic Press, 2017. 73-86.