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Study sheds new light on importance of human breast milk ingredient
Date:5/14/2012

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The colon bacteria were added to test tubes containing HMO and two prebiotics commonly used in infant formulas. These mixtures were allowed to ferment and then sampled to see how the bacterial population was changing over time and what products were being produced by the bacteria.

"When the HMOs were introduced, the bacteria produced short-chain fatty acids, at some cases at higher levels than other prebiotics now used in infant formula. The short-chain fatty acids can be used as a fuel source for beneficial bacteria and also affect gastrointestinal development and pH in the gut, which reduces the number of disease-causing pathogens," she said.

Further, different HMOs produced different patterns of short-chain fatty acids, and the composition of bacteria in the gut changed over time. "It was distinctly different at 9 vs. 17 days, making it likely that the functions of HMO change as the human infant gets older," she said.

According to Donovan, HMO are critically important in understanding how breastfeeding protects babies.

"Several companies are now able to synthesize HMO, and in the future, we may be able to use them to improve infant formula. There's evidence that these compounds can bind to receptors on immune cells and, to our knowledge, no current prebiotic ingredient can do that," she said.


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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@illinois.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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