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Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO)

What are human milk oligosaccharides (HMO)?

Human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) are a mixture of indigestible oligosaccharides composed of glucose, galactose, fucose, sialic acid and N-acetyl-glucosamine [1]. Human breast milk contains about  5-10 grams HOS per liter (cow’s milk in infant formula contains only traces of oligosaccharides) [1]. HMO is considered a soluble fiber [2].

Possible HMO Benefits

SUGGESTED HMO EFFECTS, but more studies warranted [2]:

  • HMO may reduce the attachment of bacteria in the throat, esophagus and small intestine and thus help to prevent respiratory and gastrointestinal infections [2].
  • HMO is absorbed partly intact and excreted in the urine, and may be protective against urinary tract infections [1].
  • HMO may help to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)–a severe inflammation of the intestine–in sick infants, especially premature infants  [5].

HMO is PROBABLY NOT EFFECTIVE as a prebiotic (a substance that promotes the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria) [3,4].

Related Nutrients

  1. Malainer C, 2010, master thesis: Enzymatic synthesis and investigation of novel galacto-oligosaccharides  Universitat fur Bodenkultur
  2. Engfer MB et al, 2000, Human milk oligosaccharides are resistant to enzymatic hydrolysis in the upper gastrointestinal tract  The American Journal of Nutrition
  3. Roberfroid, M., 2007, Prebiotics: the concept revisited  The Journal of Nutrition
  4. Bode L, 2012, Human milk oligosaccharides: Every baby needs a sugar mama  PubMed Central
  5. McGuire W, 2003, Donor human milk versus formula for preventing necrotising enterocolitis in preterm infants: systematic review  BMJ

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