Breast milk has long been recognized as a vital source of nutrition for infants, providing essential nutrients and antibodies that support their developing immune system. However, recent scientific research has shed light on a fascinating discovery: human breast milk contains abundant human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) that humans do not digest, because we do not have the necessary glucosidases for that (Sela and Mills, 2010).
Reference of the photo: Pexels. Criativa Pix Fotografia
“Instead, the maternal energy spent to create such complex sugars is justified by providing a selective nutritional advantage to “beneficial” microbes specialized in metabolizing HMOs with evolutionarily important functions in the newborn. Bifidobacterium longum subspecies (subsp.) infantis (B. infantis) is one such strain adapted to metabolizing HMOs.”1
In short, the main part of the milk is meant not for your baby, but for his/her health guards – Bifidobacteria infantis!
The presence of Bifidobacterium species in the maternal vaginal and fecal microbiota is arguably an evolutionary trait that allows these organisms to be primary colonizers of the newborn intestinal tract. A reduction in their abundance in infants has been shown to increase the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, metabolic disorder, and all-cause mortality later in life. 2
B. infantis can influence the development and regulation of the immune system, promoting immune tolerance and protecting against inflammation. This bacterium has also been shown to have a positive impact on various diseases, including allergies, autoimmune disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders, chronic diseases like asthma due to its ability to modulate immune responses.3
While the majority of research on the impact of HMOs and B. infantis has focused on infants, recent studies have started to explore the effects of these components on the adult microbiome. One interesting finding is the potential for the reversible engraftment of HMOs and B. infantis in the microbiomes of healthy adults. A study published in Cell Host & Microbe demonstrated that oral supplementation of HMOs and B. infantis resulted in the colonization of these components in the adult gut, leading to changes in the composition and function of the gut microbiota. These changes included increased production of short-chain fatty acids, which are beneficial for gut health, and a decrease in pro-inflammatory markers.4
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