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Oglio what?

March 2017

One of the new marketing ploys by the formula industry is the addition of HMOs to artificial baby milk (formula). What is HMO? It stands for Human Milk Oligosaccharides. If you look VERY closely at the can the maker claims it has HMOs in it, however you will find in exceptionally tiny print the statement, "Not from Human Milk.”  Huh?

Baby questioning

So let's start off with a description of HMO. These complex sugars are composed of glucose, galactose, N-acetyl-glucosamine, fucose, and N-acetylneuraminic acid (sialic acid) and can form 150 to 200 different forms just by the bonds they form with each other. HMOs are the third most abundant component in human milk. And those are only the ones we've been able to discover and name! Human milk contains from 5 to 15 g/L whereas, cow's milk contains 0.05 g/L. Human milk sugar composition is determined by the mother, in either a secretor or non-secretor status. To read details on this complex process, go to http://milkgenomics.org/article/to-secrete-or-not-to-secrete/. This ability is completely absent in artificial baby milks, and the oligosaccharide structure is different in formula!

Human Milk Oligosaccharides are resistant to the low pH of the stomach, the pancreatic and brush border enzymes, and isn't fully absorbed by the infant's body. In fact, 10-80% of HMOs are excreted in the infant's stools. A large majority of other mammals' milks do not contain any oligosaccharides. So why are they contained in human milk?

1.They serve as a prebiotic to selectively stimulate certain bacterial growth and activity, promoting infant health and well-being.

2.They are anti-adhesive antimicrobials, prohibiting the attachment of microorganisms to the intestinal mucosa through a variety of actions; dangerous microbes, such as E. coli, Streptococcus, pseudomonas, candida, helicobacter, H. pylori, Influenza viruses, listeria, cholera, campylobacter and more are blocked.

3.They serve as anti-parasitic agents to prevent the third leading cause of death, amebiasis, in the world; malaria and schistosomiasis, for example.

4.They reduce and protect against neonatal rotavirus strains.

5.They are suggested to greatly reduce the transmission of HIV through breast milk.

6. And they improve survival and reduce pathology in necrotizing enterocolitis, one of the most common intestinal disorders in preterm infants.

These amazing components of human milk are a rapidly expanding field of study, and more new discoveries emerge each year. The two oligosaccharides that have been manufactured and placed into artificial baby milks are not built the same and do not act the same as those in human milk.

Furthermore, the hundreds of HMOs work interdependently to create these amazing protective qualities. Once again proving that the formula industry is carrying out the largest uncontrolled experiment in human history... on the highest risk population - our babies.

Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA

Professional Development Educator


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