Print this article
- 11/20/2020

From mother’s milk, the supplements of the future to protect the gut and boost immune defence in adults

AgroFOOD Industry Hi Tech

It’s long been established that breast milk provides infants with very important nutrients to protect their intestinal health and boost their immune system, which is why breastfeeding is strongly recommended. Researchers have been working for many years to bring these benefits to adults too and they have finally achieved this goal: Metagenics, one of the leading producers of high-impact dietary supplements, has now developed a line of supplements based on human milk oligosaccharides (HMO). The experts at Metagenics Academy, the Metagenics division that provides training for health professionals and publishes scientific content and studies, explain the benefits.


“HMOs have been one of the most promising fields of pharmaceutical research in recent years,” says Maurizio Salamone, scientific director of Metagenics Italia. “Breast milk is an extraordinary product that contains substances that are vital to human health. It has always been widely known that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of gastrointestinal disorders and infections in infants and in later life. Human milk oligosaccharides play a key role in that: there are 150-200 different oligosaccharides in human breast milk, the most common ingredient after water and lactose (bovine milk only contains about 30). What makes HMO so special is that just 1-2% is absorbed by infants. The rest continues on into the colon, where it favours good bacteria over bad in the gut microbiota.”

And that’s not all HMO does. It also has proven effects on the immune system, while studies are only just beginning into the protection it provides from allergies.


Turning HMO into an effective nutritional supplement for adults is a challenge. Due to the complex chemical structure of HMO and the significant technical difficulties faced in its production, up until now its use has been restricted to enriched baby food (formula).
However, we are now beginning to see a return on many years of investment in R&D, with the recent release of these innovative products on the Italian market. HMO could soon become one of the most widely used adjuvants in probiotic treatments to protect the intestinal flora and boost immunity.


Metagenics, the leading producer and distributor of science-based micronutrition, is a globally active group. Metagenics Europe services and coordinates the whole European market out of its head office in Ostend (Belgium). This is also the location of the production company. Metagenics Europe employs 300 people in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Italy, and posted total turnover of 68 million euros in 2019. The head office of Metagenics Italia is in Milan. Metagenics Academy provides training for health professionals and publishes scientific content and studies.