Editor(s): Goehring KC, Marriage BJ, Oliver JS, Wilder JA, Barrett EG, Buck RH..
A new study has found that infants fed formulae supplemented with 2′-fucosyllactose (2ʹFL) had inflammatory cytokine response similar to that of breastfed infants. Human breast milk has always been known for its unique nutritional composition, which is best suited for neonates and infants. In addition to providing adequate nutrients, human milk also protects the infant from a variety of infections. One such component that supports the infant’s immune system is human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).
Research so far has provided evidence that HMOs support babies’ immunity in 4 ways, by acting as a decoy for bacterial pathogens, improving the balance of gut microbiota by promoting the growth of certain bifidobacteria, assisting gut barrier function and directly modulating immune cell maturation. Human breast milk contains more than 150 oligosaccharides, of which about 20 are referred to as the major HMOs. Of these, 2′FL is the most abundant HMO. As 2′FL is abundantly present in human breast milk but not in infant formulae, Goehring and colleagues investigated the effect of feeding infant formulae supplemented with 2′FL on the inflammatory cytokine response of healthy term infants, in a sub-study that was nested within a randomised, double-blind study on 424 full-term infants, who were enrolled at 5 days of age. Of these, a total of 315 infants participated in the sub-study, among whom 86 infants were exclusively breastfed, while 229 were exclusively formula fed from the day of enrolment to 4 months of age. The formula-fed infants were randomised to receive a control formula that did not contain 2′FL or experimental formulae containing either 0.2 or 1.0 g 2′FL/L. All formulae contained galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), which are currently added to mimic HMOs.
After 6 weeks, results showed that the infants who consumed the control formula containing GOS (without 2′FL) had higher levels of inflammatory cytokines than those who were exclusively breastfed. The 2 groups of infants who received the formulae with 2′FL had similar profiles of inflammatory cytokines as the exclusively breastfed infants.
According to Goehring and colleagues, these findings indicate that HMO 2’FL supplementation of infant formulae supports aspects of immune development and regulation similar to those of breastfed infants.