Infant formula brought closer to breast milk thanks to prebiotic oligosaccharides



Einerhand Science & Innovation Consultancy, Alkmaar, The Netherlands


Breast milk provides a great amount of bioactive compounds and the benefits of breast-feeding are well established. Therefore, it remains the best way to feed the newborn. Nevertheless, circumstances might lead mothers to consider formula-feeding. Feeding infants on standard formula, results in a different gut microbiota than with breastfeeding. There is accumulating evidence that infant formulas with added prebiotics alter the gastrointestinal microbiota and metabolite production in a way that it is more similar to what is observed in breastfed infants. It better mimics breastmilk than standard formulas. This review describes how nutritional benefits of breast milk are being recreated by adding different kinds of prebiotics to infant formula. It highlights the current knowledge regarding the health benefits of prebiotics in early life and current products on the market. Lastly, it answers the question ‘where do we go from here?’ by exploring the latest science and emerging prebiotic products.


Breast milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to eat and digest other foods. It helps to (a) protect the baby against infection, (b) supports optimal growth, (c) drives maturation and development of both the gastrointestinal tract and of the body as a whole and lastly, (d) programs for later life health (1,2). A recent large Brazilian cohort study demonstrated the programming potential of breast milk. In this study almost 6,000 neonates were enrolled and followed during 30 years. It revealed a clear association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age (2). Clearly, breastfeeding does not only have short-term benefits, but has impact on later life health as well.



Breast milk has an ideal composition of nutrients that babies are able to digest (3). There is variation in the composition of breast milk among individuals ... ...