How do complex milk sugars impact the infant gut microbiome?
The third most abundant component of breastmilk is Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs). These complex sugars cannot be digested by the baby, and serve as nutrients for its gut bacteria. Basically, the mother is feeding the infant gut bacteria, shifting its composition to contain HMO-utilizing bacteria. Our lab aims to study if/how the sugar composition of the mother's milk influences the bacterial composition of her infant's gut.
Infant formula does not contain the HMO molecules* hence the HMO-utilizing bacteria are no longer preferable to grow in the infant’s gut. Recently (2018), the first infant formulas came out that include a single (smallest) HMO molecule (2FL).