Send to

Choose Destination
Br J Nutr. 2015 May 14;113(9):1339-44. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000823.

Oligosaccharides in infant formula: more evidence to validate the role of prebiotics.

Author information

Pediatric Gastroenterology, UZ Brussel, Vrije Universiteit Brussel,Laarbeeklaan 101,1090Brussels,Belgium.
Pediatric Department, Russian Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education,Moscow,Russia.


The gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota differs between breast-fed and classic infant formula-fed infants. Breast milk is rich in prebiotic oligosaccharides (OS) and may also contain some probiotics, but scientific societies do not recommend the addition of prebiotic OS or probiotics to standard infant formula. Nevertheless, many infant formula companies often add one or the other or both. Different types of prebiotic OS are used in infant formula, including galacto-oligosaccharide, fructo-oligosaccharide, polydextrose and mixtures of these OS, but none adds human milk OS. There is evidence that the addition of prebiotics to infant formula brings the GI microbiota of formula-fed infants closer to that of breast-fed infants. Prebiotics change gut metabolic activity (by decreasing stool pH and increasing SCFA), have a bifidogenic effect and bring stool consistency and defecation frequency closer to those of breast-fed infants. Although there is only limited evidence that these changes in GI microbiota induce a significant clinical benefit for the immune system, interesting positive trends have been observed in some markers. Additionally, adverse effects are extremely seldom. Prebiotics are added to infant formula because breast milk contains human milk OS. Because most studies suggest a trend of beneficial effects and because these ingredients are very safe, prebiotics bring infant formula one step closer to the golden standard of breast milk.


Breast-feeding; Galacto-oligosaccharides; Infant feeding; Infant formula; Oligosaccharides; Prebiotics

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Cambridge University Press
Loading ...
Support Center