Breast milk seen as source of prebiotic ingredients

This content item was originally published on, a William Reed online publication.

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Breast milk Milk

Human breast milk is a novel source of interesting prebiotic candidates, attendees at the recent IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas event were told.

Dr Rachael Buck, PhD, associate research fellow of Abbott Nutrition, spoke on human milk oligosaccharides, or HMOs. These molecules form a significant portion—about 12%—of human breast milk but are not easily digested.  What are they doing there, then? The answer seems to be to jump start the ramification of the infant’s microbiome.  

“There are more than 150 HMOs in human breast milk,”​ Buck said. Buck spoke with  NutraIngredients-USA at the IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas event​, which was hosted by William Reed in Chicago last week. The event brought together more than 200 regulators, probiotics and prebiotics researchers and product developers.

With Abbott, Buck has in particular studied one candidate molecule, called 2'-fucosyllactose (2’FL), which can be produced via fermentation. Buck has coauthored papers on the molecule that include how the molecule incorporated in a formula performs against a human milk control in terms of weight gain, how the molecule attenuates food allergies in a mouse model and how it affects learning capabilities in rodents.

“This brings formula a step closer to human milk,” ​Buck said.  She said the molecule might also potentially have applications for adults as either a dietary supplement ingredient or a food additive.

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