Why Infant Formula Needs Prebiotics

It is common knowledge that formula milk for infants is lacking when compared to mother's milk. Formula milk does serve women and their babies well in cases where the mother can't or chooses not to breast feed. The milk produced by the breasts (mammary glands) of female humans, however, is the ideal source of nutrition for newborn babies who are not yet able to consume or digest solid foods.

Infant Gut Microbiota

What scientists do know is that the gut microbiota of breast-fed babies is somewhat different from infants fed with standard formula. Two important ingredients that have been missing from formula milks include the following:

  1. Prebiotic oligosaccharides
  2. Probiotics

The solution to this problem was to simply add prebiotic oligosaccharides to formulas, including:

  • Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Fructo-oligosaccharide
  • Polydextrose
  • Mixtures of the above

The scientific evidence shows that once prebiotic oligosaccharides are added to infant formula milk, the intestinal microbiota in the host body resembles that of infants which are breastfed. Infants on the supplemented formulas resulted in:

  • Lower stool pH
  • Improved stool consistency
  • Better stool frequency
  • Higher amounts of the good bacteria, bifidobacteria, in the intestine

These are safe ingredients for infants, thus adding prebiotics to formula makes the milk closer to actual breast milk. The research into enhancing formula milks continues.


Prebiotics in Infant Formula | Vandenplas Y, De Greef E, Veereman G.


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