A new infant formula ingredient can protect babies’ immune systems like breast milk

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Breastfeeding infant formula
Studies suggest that breastfed babies may have stronger immune systems, thanks in part to a prebiotic called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). For the first time, scientists have created an infant formula containing HMOs, making formula more like breast milk than ever before.

Good nutrition helps build the foundation for a child’s ability to learn, grow and thrive.

For babies, the best nutrition is breast milk – there’s nothing in the world like it – in part due to special prebiotics called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).

HMOs, found naturally in breast milk, feed good bacteria in the gut. Researchers believe these prebiotics may be one of the main reasons breastfeeding provides immune health benefits.

Now, a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition offers good news about HMOs for parents who need or choose to use infant formula.

The study shows that babies fed infant formula with a structurally identical version of 2′-fucosyllactose (2′-FL), the most abundant HMO found in most human milk, had an immune response more like breastfed babies.

In the study, researchers looked at the immune response of 200 babies divided into feeding groups – exclusively breastfed, formula-fed without 2′-FL HMO and formula-fed with 2′-FL HMO.

After 6 weeks, results showed that when comparing the breastfed group to the group fed formula without 2′-FL HMO, the levels of five immune markers were statistically different.

Levels of these same markers, however, were nearly identical between the breastfed group and the group fed formula with 2′-FL HMO.

The results confirmed that infant formula with 2′-FL HMO narrowed the gap between breast milk and formula in ways never seen before.

The researchers suggest that the first year of life is an important window for immune system development.

Excluding water, HMOs are the third most abundant ingredient in breast milk after fat and carbohydrates. There are hundreds of HMOs in human milk, and they are more than 100 times more abundant in breast milk than cow’s milk.

Like other prebiotics, HMOs support gut health, where 70% of the immune system exists.

Now parents who have to use formula to feed their baby can choose formula with 2′-FL HMO, because it can help strengthen babies’ immune systems to be more like breastfed babies.

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News Source: ABBOTT.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to ABBOTT.