Paediatric Applications of Prebiotics

Abstract

Bacteria are prevalent in the human gut as part of the gut microbiome. Most have a benign effect; however some may cause disorder and others are positive for our health. Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are uniquely found in human milk and represent the third largest component. HMO are thought to confer some of the health benefits associated with breast feeding including the development of improved gut microbiota, reducing infection, improving immune function, possible role in promoting brain development. Emerging science also supports a role in growth and metabolism.

3 min read
Reference

Professor Glenn Gibson

Content

Bacteria are prevalent in the human gut as part of the gut microbiome. Most have a benign effect; however some may cause disorder and others are positive for our health. An altered gut microbiome due to causes such as antibiotics, drugs, or injury can lead to dysbiosis and disease which may require treatment to restore the normal physiology. Initial colonizers are present at birth and conditions become favorable for growth during the first week. In breast fed babies, Bifidobacterium predominate and formula fed babies have a similar profile up to days 4 to 7. Prebiotics, a substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit, found in the gut act as a “functional” fiber and have a selective microbial effect. Infants given formula supplemented with prebiotics were shown to have increased Bifidobacterium growth in the gut and microbiota composition closer to that of breast-fed infants. The benefits of prebiotics for infants include softer stools, increased good bacteria, inhibition against harmful bacteria, and reduced atopic issues. Prebiotics may work by a direct effect on host epithelium, selective proliferation of beneficial bacteria, and direct effect on invasion of gastrointestinal pathogens.

The composition differs greatly between cow’s milk, human milk, and infant formula. Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are uniquely found in human milk and represent the third largest component. HMOs are thought to confer some of the health benefits associated with breast feeding including the development of improved gut microbiota, reducing infection, improving immune function, possible role in promoting brain development. Emerging science also supports a role in growth and metabolism.

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