They are known to provide benefits to infants by supporting the immune system, promoting growth of beneficial gut bacteria and supporting brain development.
Global bioscience company Chr. Hansen has conducted an HMO scientific study of an infant formula containing the five most abundant HMOs at a concentration of 5.75g per liter (g/l), which resembles the concentration naturally found in mother’s milk.
It said the results show good safety and tolerance of the blend of five HMOs –2’-fucosyllactose, 3-fucosyllactose, lacto-N-tetraose, 3’-sialyllactose and 6’-sialyllactose – in infants. These results have just been published in the peer reviewed journal Nutrients, and it is the first publication describing the application of a complex blend of five HMOs at physiological concentrations.
The multi-center, randomized, double-blinded study was conducted in 12 different investigator sites across Europe and included 341 newborn infants that were followed over a four-month investigational period. All infants developed well and the formula containing the mix of the five HMOs in question was well tolerated. Moreover, comparable to the study group of breastfed infants, they produced softer stools at a higher frequency than the control formula group.
“We are excited to publish this study of a complex blend of five HMOs at physiological concentrations in infant formula. Breastfeeding is the best way to ensure infant health and recommended by WHO, but at Chr. Hansen, we aim to support the healthy development of infants that cannot be breastfed by providing HMOs as an ingredient and blend for infant formula in a natural concentration. The new study is an important step to bring infant formula closer to breast milk,” said Jesper Sig Mathiasen, senior vice president, Chr. Hansen HMO.
HMOs are authorized as ingredients for infant formula in North America, Europe, parts of Latin America and Asia with approvals pending in key markets such as China, India, Brazil and Argentina.
“About 150 different HMOs have been identified so far, but most infant formula products do not contain HMOs or contain only the most abundant HMO, 2’-fucosyllactose,” said Dr Katja Parschat, head of R&D, Chr. Hansen HMO.
“However, the benefits of HMOs stem from the structural diversity of these sugars. They are well represented by the five HMOs studied since these account for about 30% of all HMOs in human breast milk. In a further study, we will analyze the development of the gut microbiota of the 341 infants included in the study just published to get more insight on the benefits of the HMOs on gastrointestinal health.”
Chr. Hansen said it intends to invest in further research to expand its expertise in the field and provide more insights on the benefits of HMOs in science and in infants’ health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding together with complementary foods.