University of Groningen scientists have discovered how a class of carbohydrates (galactooligosaccharides, GOS) helps infant formula to stimulate the gut microbiota of babies in a similar way that breast milk does. These carbohydrates kick-start the pathways that bacteria use to digest mucus, thereby increasing the chance of survival of these bacteria in the gut. ‘It appears that the activation of the mucin pathways is vital to the positive effect on the gut microbiota’, says Alicia Lammerts van Bueren, first author of the study. The GOS have a similar effect as adding human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), despite having a totally different structure.
This finding, which the University has patented, paves the way for using these ‘prebiotics’ to increase the nutritional value of infant food. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports on 16 January.
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