Breast milk also known as human milk, is fed to newborns and infants as it contains all the essential nutrition required for their development. As per the World Health Organization, all infants should be breastfed for at least six months. Reportedly, there are more than two hundred different components found in human milk, carbohydrates and lactose being the major ones. 

Polysaccharides and human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) are abundantly present in human milk and offers plenty of benefits such as resistance to pathogenic infections, gut microbiota colonization support, and immune development. Moreover, oligosaccharides plays an important role in the health of gastrointestinal tract of newborns and babies. 

However, there are certain limitations faced by mothers while breastfeeding their infants. Therefore, many babies are either completely or partly given cow-milk derived infant formulas that contain polysaccharides and oligosaccharides. Considering the importance of infant formula for the health of an infant, manufacturers are tasked with ensuring quality, hygiene, and above all, no side-effects. 

The insights presented here are based on a report by Fact.MR on polysaccharides and oligosaccharides market. A sample of the report is available upon request. 

Including Galacto- Oligosaccharides in Infant Formula 

Human milk has a variety of compounds that control the infant intestinal microbiota. One of the essential groups of components are HMOs that possess various nutritional and functional properties. Human milk’s prebiotic function as source of growth factors for bifidus flora is well established. GI microbiota of infants that are breastfed is dominated by bifidobacteria as opposed to infants that are given formula. This fact has been attributed to HMO’s presence in human milk and their absence in formulas. Considering growing usage of infant formulas and increasing evidence of the importance of GI microbiota in humans, manufacturers have addressed the functional prebiotic properties of infant formulas. 

To meet the HMOs demand, formulas are nowadays fortified with prebiotics. In Europe, prebiotics mostly are variants of oligosaccharides, one of them being short chain galacto- oligosaccharides. Prebiotics imitate HMOs bifidogenic effect present in human milk. It has been related to improving immunity and also provides other health benefits to babies. Galacto- oligosaccharides are created enzymatically from lactose for being used in infant formula.

Initiatives Taken by Companies 

To meet the nutritional value of human milk, several companies have developed infant formulas. For instance, Abbott has been a leading firm in manufacturing formulas. In fact, it is the first brand to introduce a non-GMO labelled option. In 1925, the firm introduced Similac in the US and till now a dedicated team of scientists, specialists, and dieticians committed to advancing the science related to infant nutrition is in place. 

Similac caters to almost all the demands of the infant dietary requirement. In fact, they have made several advancements with 2’-FL Human Milk Oligosaccharide. Two products Similac Pro-Advance and Pro-Sensitive with 2’-FL HMO are the first infant formulas that has the goodness of HMO. Similac’s latest addition is reducing the gap between breast milk and formula. 

Increasing Usage of Soy- Polysaccharides Infant Formula 

Polysaccharides are extracted from plant foods and are considered to be one of the essential components of human diet. Polysaccharides are extensively used in infant formulas. Increasing health awareness among consumers has led to various lifestyle alterations and shift in focus towards nutritious and healthy food products. To cater to the various demands, several manufacturers are developing soy- polysaccharide infant formula.

 These formulas are developed when a group of babies require special nutritional needs. Soy- Polysaccharide infant formula is refed to infants after diarrhea. As per American Academy of Pediatrics, usage of soy-protein based formula has increased over the years. Since soy-protein based formulas don’t contain lactose, they can be used for infants with hereditary lactase deficiency.