Human Milk Oligosaccharides or briefly HMOs, are the 3rd most abundant components exclusively found in human breast milk. They are known to provide benefits to infants by supporting the immune system, promoting growth of beneficial gut bacteria and supporting brain development.
Chr. Hansen has conducted an HMO scientific study of an infant formula containing the five most abundant HMOs at a concentration of 5.75 gram per litre (g/l), which resembles the concentration that is naturally found in mother’s milk. The results showed good safety and tolerability of the blend of 5 HMOs – namely 2’-fucosyllactose, 3-fucosyllactose, lacto-N-tetraose, 3’-sialyllactose and 6’-sialyllactose – in infants. These results have been published in the peer reviewed journal Nutrients, and is the first publication describing the application of a complex blend of five HMOs at physiological concentrations.
The multi-center, randomised, double-blinded study was conducted in 12 different investigator sites across Europe and included 341 newborn infants that were followed over a 4-month investigational period. All infants developed well and the formula containing the mix of the 5 HMOs in question was well tolerated. Interestingly, they also produced softer stools comparable to breastfed infants at a higher frequency than the control formula group.
Jesper Sig Mathiasen, Senior Vice President of Chr.Hansen HMO said, “Breastfeeding is the best way to ensure infant health and recommended by WHO, but at Chr. Hansen, we aim to support the healthy development of infants that cannot be breastfed by providing HMOs as an ingredient and blend for infant formula in a natural concentration. The new study is an important step to bring infant formula closer to breast milk.”
HMOs are authorised as ingredients for infant formula in North America, Europe, parts of Latin America and Asia with approvals pending in key markets such as China, India, Brazil and Argentina.
“About 150 different HMOs have been identified so far, but most infant formula products do not contain HMOs or contain only the most abundant HMO, 2’-fucosyllactose,” said Dr. Katja Parschat, Head of Research & Development, Chr. Hansen HMO. “However, the benefits of HMOs stem from the structural diversity of these sugars. They are well represented by the 5 HMOs studied since these account for about 30% of all HMOs in human breast milk. In a further study, we will analyse the development of the gut microbiota of the 341 infants included in the study just published to get more insight on the benefits of the HMOs on gastrointestinal health.”
Meanwhile, in a separate development, Chr.Hansen has also reached a settlement with Glycom A/S on several patent disputes relating to the production of HMOs, in which both parties have agreed on royalty-bearing patent licences.
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