Compound sugar in breast milk linked to early height and weight in children, study finds

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (NIH) suggests that breast milk oligopolysugar (HMO) found in breast milk may affect the growth and development of children from infancy to early childhood, and that maternal obesity may affect the composition of HMO in breast milk,media reported.

Compound sugar in breast milk linked to early height and weight in children, study finds

Breast milk polysaccharides are compound sugars in breast milk, but babies cannot be digested directly. Instead, HMO acts as a probiotic by affecting the composition of the gut microbiome. Previous studies have found that breast milk polysaccharides can also protect babies from disease-causing microorganisms.

About 150 types of HMOs are currently known, with different combinations and concentrations in each mother’s breast milk, partly due to genetic and hMO types.

The researchers assessed about 800 pairs of mothers and children in the Finnish Child Development Study and analyzed the levels of HMO in breast milk samples (collected at 3 months of age), two of which are now added to some commercial infant formula: 2′ -alano-algae-based lactose (2′ FL) and lactose-N-new tetragin (LNnT).

The researchers found that mothers from higher and heavier babies had lower diversity of HMO components in breast milk, higher concentrations of 2’FL, and lower LNNT concentrations. Breast milk from overweight and obese mothers also tends to have a lower HMO composition, a higher concentration of 2’FL and a lower LNnT concentration.

The researchers said the results confirmed two previous smaller studies, both of which showed similar HMO composition and child growth patterns in the mother population. At the same time, they stress, more research is needed to find out how HMO composition affects the growth and development of young children, which may provide new treatments for early childhood growth problems and obesity in the future.