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Plant-based galacto-oligosaccharides: the new gold standard for special infant formulas?


Eric Chappuis
Olygose, Venette, France


Prebiotics are now considered as key ingredients in infant formulas although their use is not mandatory. The demonstration of their multiple benefits on gut health, immunity and global development in infants has led to the development of several prebiotics among which galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are now considered as gold standards.

While the prevalence of lactose intolerance and cow’s milk allergy are rising in infants and young children, the choice of prebiotic compounds that are safe and suitable for these populations is limited as most prebiotics for infants are produced from dairy raw materials.

A new generation of lactose-free prebiotic substances has emerged with the development of plant-based galacto-oligosaccharides extracted from legumes. Their safety and benefits will be detailed in this article.


The gastrointestinal microbiota of breast-fed babies differs from classic standard formula fed infants: While breast milk is rich in prebiotic oligosaccharides, standard infant formula is not (1).

To deliver benefits as close as possible to those provided by breastmilk, infant formulas manufacturers have added prebiotic oligosaccharides to infant formulas since the late 1990s. Prebiotic fibers addition has since become a key differentiating asset for infant and young children formulas manufacturers. From a physiological point-of-view, prebiotic oligosaccharides addition in formulas modulates positively the microbiota of formula-fed infants and makes it closer to that observed in breastfed infants: lower fecal pH, better stool consistency and frequency as well as more balanced composition of the microbiota (such as higher concentration of bifidobacteria) (1).

Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) have established as the prebiotic gold standard in infant formulas as they display molecular features similar to structures found in breastmilk. They have shown their ability to shift positively the microbiota ...

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