Human milk is considered as ‘gold standard’ as it is the best form of nutrition for infants. WHO and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life with introduction of complementary food at 6 months of age and continuation of breastfeeding up to 2 years.1

Human milk composition is unique and acts as a complete source of energy, provides several nutrients which acts as bioactive components that are specifically adapted and formulated to support infant’s growth and development.2 Some of these bioactive compounds are human milk oligosaccharides, α-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, taurine, milk fat globule membrane, folates, polyamines, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA & ARA), prebiotics and probiotics etc.3


What are Human Milk

Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) have become a topic of research due to its nutritional and health benefits for almost a century.4

HMOs are natural occurring prebiotics found in abundance in human milk.

3rd Largest solid
component In human Milk4,5

HMO content of colostrum is around 20g/L which later drops to 12-15g/L in mature human milk4.

More than 1000 different oligosacharides are present in human milk5,6, of which around 162 different structures have been characterized.7 2’-Fucosyllactose (2’-FL) is the most predominant oligosaccharide present in human milk.8

  • Fucosylation HMOs
  • Non-Fucosylated HMOs
  • Non-Fucosylated HMOs

HMOs are classified into 3 main types namely9

  • Neutral N-containing or Non-fucosylated HMOs
  • Neutral or Fucosylated HMOs
    (e.g. 2’-Fucosyllactose)
  • Acidic or Sialylated HMOs
    (e.g. 2’-Sialyllactose)

Each HMO has a unique profile which varies over time & is influenced by several factors4, 10

HMOs can resist digestion in the upper GI tract and retain their structural configuration in the proximal intestine11. Upon reaching the distal intestine, they are fermented by bacteria like Bifidobacterium spp. This explains the diverse role of HMOs on gut microbiota, immunity, growth and cognitive development during early life.9,11
benefits HOMS
  • WHO 2000
  • Greer FR. et al. Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):183-9.
  • Almeida CC. et al. Int J Food Sci. 2021 May 14;2021:8850080.
  • Sprenger N. et al. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2022 Apr;35(2):280-299.
  • Stahl B. et al. Anal Biochem. 1994;223(2):218-26.
  • Thurl S. et al. Nutr Rev. 2017:920-33.
  • Urashima. et al. Glycotechnol. 2018, 30, SJ11–SJ24.
  • Erney RM. et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2000;30(2):181-92.
  • Wiciński M. et al. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 20;12(1):266.
  • Coppa GV. et al. Acta paediatrica. 1999;88(430):89-94.
  • Zhang S. et al. Microb Cell Fact. 2021 Jul 21;20(1):140

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Impact of Prebiotic Oligosaccharides on Local Immunity

Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) contribute to developing beneficial intestinal microflora and building immunity.

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Safety and Efficacy Profile Of Prebiotic Oligosaccharides In Preterm Infants

About 2.5 million infant deaths occur annually worldwide. Global statistics reveal that prematurity-related complications account for 35% of neonatal deaths.

Nutricia Pioneering Innovation


Influence Of Maternal And Socioeconomic Factors On Breast Milk Fatty Acid Composition In Urban, Low-income Families

Author: Nayak U, Kanungo S, Zhang D, Ross Colgate E, Carmolli MP, Dey A, Alam M, Manna B, Nandy RK, Kim DR, Paul DK.

Journal: Maternal & child nutrition. 2017 Oct;13(4):e12423

DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12423

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Consumption And Concentration Among South Indian Women During Pregnancy

Author: Dwarkanath P, Muthayya S, Thomas T, Vaz M, Parikh P, Mehra R, Kurpad AV.

Journal: Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition.

DOI: doi/10.3316/ielapa.3130


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1. What according to you, affects the infant gut microbiota the most?