Human milk oligosaccharides, not only for breast fed babies

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a newborn’s life, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods to the age of 2 years or beyond. Breastfeeding for longer periods has many benefits for the infant, including lower infection rates, and a lower risk of developing asthma, allergies, inflammatory diseases and even obesity. Human breast milk contains all the essential nutrients required to promote healthy infant development but is also a rich source of bioactive compounds such as immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozymes, cytokines and complex carbohydrates. The latter, known as human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), comprise more than 150 different sugar molecules whose effects on infants` development have been the subject of intense research over the last decade. Breast-fed infants consume 15 grams of HMOs per day on average. The concentration and composition of HMOs in human breast milk varies during the period of lactation and is adapted to the needs of the child at each stage of development. The simplest HMOs are trisaccharides (three sugar residues) formed by linking the disaccharide lactose to fucose, sialic acid or N-acetylglucosamine. More complex HMOs are based on tetraose core structures (four sugar residues), in which lactose is extended with units of lacto-N-biose (yielding lacto-N-tetraose) or N-acetyllactosamine (yielding lacto-N-neotetraose). Both of these structures can be decorated with fucose and sialic acid or extended by adding more galactose or N-acetylglucosamine residues to make even more complex HMOs.

This article is available in full in the Summer 2018 issue of Nutraceuticals Now

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