Human milk lipids as a blueprint for next-generation lipids in infant nutrition
Human milk is the preferred source of nutrition for infants. Similarly to the other components in human milk, its lipids have served as a blueprint for the recent developments in infant nutrition. Thanks to the accumulating research results related to the benefits of milk fat, the source of lipids used in infant formula is moving from solely vegetable oils to a combination of vegetable oils and dairy-derived lipids. An increase in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids can also be seen. This article discusses the drivers of this trend from both a scientific and a market perspective.
LIPIDS IN HUMAN MILK
Human milk is the best way to provide infants with all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. It is an individual-specific biofluid, characterized by an extreme variability in its composition, with regard to both nutritional and bioactive components (1). Lipids are the second-largest component of human milk and contribute around 45-55% of the total energy provided by human milk during the first 6 months of life. Furthermore, lipids and lipid derivatives have various metabolic and physiological functions which include, but are not limited to, the development and functioning of the nervous system, support for proper digestion, modulation of signaling pathways and cellular metabolism, all of which are critical to infants’ healthy growth and development (2).
Lipids are the macronutrient in human milk with the highest degree of variability, in terms of both amount and composition. They fluctuate during the day, increase during a single breastfeeding session, change in response to the length of lactation, and are highly dependent on both genetic and dietary factors (2,3).