Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) found in breastmilk may influence a child's growth from infancy through early childhood and maternal obesity may affect HMO composition in breastmilk, according to a recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
HMOs, including 2'-fucosyllactose (2'FL) and lower concentrations lacto-N-neo-tetraose (LNnT), are complex sugars found in breastmilk that serve as prebiotics by influencing the composition of the gut microbiome. Mothers have unique combinations and concentrations of HMOs in their breastmilk.
Approximately 802 pairs of mothers and infants took part in the study and researchers analysed the content of HMOs in breastmilk samples collected when the children were three months old. Breastmilk from mothers of taller, heavier infants and children were found to have less diverse HMO composition, with higher concentrations of 2'FL and lower concentrations LNnT. Breastmilk from overweight and obese mothers also tended to have less diverse HMO composition, also with higher concentrations of 2'FL and lower concentrations of LNnT.
The researchers concluded that the association between maternal HMO composition and childhood growth may imply a causal relation, which needs further testing, especially because 2′FL and LNnT are among the HMOs now being added to infant formula milk.
Approximately 150 types of HMOs are already known and previous studies have found that they can protect infants from disease-causing microbes.