Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are the third most important solid component in human milk and act in tandem with other bioactive components. Individual HMO levels and distribution vary greatly between mothers by multiple variables, such as secretor status, race, geographic region, environmental conditions, season, maternal diet, and weight, gestational age and mode of delivery. HMOs improve the gastrointestinal barrier and also promote a bifidobacterium-rich gut microbiome, which protects against infection, strengthens the epithelial barrier, and creates immunomodulatory metabolites. HMOs fulfil a variety of physiologic functions including potential support to the immune system, brain development, and cognitive function. Supplementing infant formula with HMOs is safe and promotes a healthy development of the infant revealing benefits for microbiota composition and infection prevention. Because of limited data comparing the effect of non-human oligosaccharides to HMOs, it is not known if HMOs offer an additional clinical benefit over non-human oligosaccharides. Better knowledge of the factors influencing HMO composition and their functions will help to understand their short- and long-term benefits.
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- Milk, Human/metabolism
- Gastrointestinal Microbiome