Researchers at RMIT university examined the presence of naturally occurring oligosaccharides in two goat milk formulas (Oli6 Stage 1 for babies aged 0-6 months and Oli6 Stage 2 for babies aged 6-12 months) and their prebiotic and anti-infection properties.
The results, published in British Journal of Nutrition, reveal 14 naturally-occurring prebiotic oligosaccharides in the goat milk formula - five of which are also found in human breast milk.
Researchers found the natural prebiotic oligosaccharides in the goat milk formula were effective in promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria (bifidobacteria) and inhibiting the ability of harmful bacteria such as pathogenic E. coli to attach to human intestinal cells.
Lead investigator, Professor Harsharn Gill, said: "Our results show goat milk formula may have strong prebiotic and anti-infection properties, that could protect infants against gastrointestinal infections.
"The study indicates the prebiotic oligosaccharides in goat milk formula are effective at selectively promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut."
The researchers found two types of oligosaccharides - fucosylated and sialylated - were most heavily present in the goat milk formula.
"Fucosylated are the most abundant oligosaccharides in human milk and are the focus of significant commercial and regulatory interest," Gill said.
"These oligosaccharides have been shown to play a significant role in anti-infection properties of breast milk."
Researchers in RMIT's School of Science are now planning to undertake clinical trials to confirm confirm these benefits for infants.
Maintaining a healthy gut
Human milk contains an abundant supply and diverse array of oligosaccharides that are known to offer significant health benefits to babies, including the establishment and maintenance of a healthy gut microflora, immune development and protection against gastrointestinal infections.
While cow milk formula is the most widely used alternative to breastfeeding, goat milk is considered to be closer to human milk in some respects, especially oligosaccharides.
Almost one third of all cases of diarrhoea in children are attributed to pathogenic E. colibacteria.
The research was supported by RMIT and an Entrepreneurs' Programme: Innovation Connections Grant co-funded by the Australian Government and Nuchev Pty Ltd, manufacturers of Oli6.
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Leong. A., et al
"Oligosaccharides in goats' milk-based infant formula and their prebiotic and anti-infection properties"