HMOs levels in breast milk seem to have little influence in infant growth and body composition over the first 4 months of lactation

Feb 02, 2021

The period between conception through the first 2 years of life is critical for human growth and development. Infant growth can be affected by a number of environmental, genetic, epigenetic, metabolic, and microbial factors. Undernourished children display an abnormal gut microbiota, which has led some to conclude that a disrupted microbiota may impair normal postnatal growth and affect nutritional status.  Breast milk provides the optimal nutrition for the growing infant and is rich in bioactive substances contributing to a beneficial gut microbiota including Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO).  Modest associations exist between individual HMO and infant growth outcomes at least in healthy growing populations. Certain groups of HMOs, like the sialylated, may be associated with adiposity or weight gain during the first months of lactation.   The present study adds to our understanding of possible physiological meanings of breastmilk HMO compositional variations for breastfed, term-born, and generally healthy growing infants. This is a large cohort study that has enrolled 322 mother-infant pairs from 7 European countries, different levels of HMOs in breast milk, especially of 2-linked fucosylated HMOs, like 2’FL, do not correlate or predict infant growth and body composition over the first 4 months of lactation. This study provides a comprehensive investigation of associations between all major HMO and infant growth and adiposity including 7 time points. HMO may modulate the risk of future metabolic disease. Future population studies need to address the role of specific groups of HMOs in the context of health and disease to understand the long-term impact.

Binia, A., Lavalle, L., Chen, C. et al. Human milk oligosaccharides, infant growth, and adiposity over the first 4 months of lactation. Pediatr Res (2021).