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PLAYING: HMOs: A major component in human milk that supports your child's immunity

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HMOs: A major component in human milk that supports your child's immunity

3 mins to read Sep 7, 2022
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As a parent, you want to protect your child now and in the future. That includes shaping his or her immune system to make it strong and protect them from today's rampant viruses.

Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), the third largest solid component of human milk after fat and carbohydrates are a special type of prebiotics due to the diversity and complexity of their structures.

HMOs feed the healthy bacteria in a child's gut where about 70 percent of the immune system resides. For this reason, the presence of HMOs in formula is particularly important as they contribute to the development of the immune system, which rapidly evolves in early life.

4 ways HMOs work for your child's immunity

Human Milk Oligosaccharides serve as food for probiotics (friendly bacteria), supporting your child's immunity in very specific ways



HMOs promote the growth of beneficial bacteria


For gut microbiota, HMOs act as a substrate with powerful and selective action: they help beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria to thrive, while limiting the growth of potentially pathogenic strains of Enterobacteriaceae, Escherichia coli and Clostridia.

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HMOs assist gut barrier function


To cause an infectious disease, pathogens need to adhere to the gut mucosa. HMOs can directly interact with intestinal surface cells and modulate their shape (or glycan expression) in a way that prevents the attachment of potential pathogens and enhances their clearance in stools.

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HMOs prevent pathogen adhesion in the gut


HMOs, especially fucosylated HMOs such as 2’FL, resemble gut cell surface glycans and serve as decoy receptors, keeping pathogens away from the mucosa, thus reducing their ability to infect the infant.

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HMOs directly balance the immune system


Immune cells in a child's microbiota are called T-cells and are one of two types: Th1 or Th2. The child's innate immune system is highly unbalanced towards Th2 response, favoring allergic reactions. HMOs can exert microbiota-independent immune effects that will help promote a shift towards a balanced Th1/Th2 response and drive immune maturation.

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A 5 HMO blend in milk formula helps support childrens' immune systems

No less than 200 HMOs, belonging to three major families, have been identified, with 2’FL, LNT and 6’SL being the most predominant ones in each family. So far, formula had up to 2 HMOs in their composition and supported children's immunity with clinically proven results.

Recently, a unique 5-HMO complex has been developed: 2'FL, DFL, LNT, 6'SL and 3'SL. Its HMO proportions are based on HMO ratios in human milk (1). Together, the 5 HMOs quantitatively account for nearly 50% of the HMOs* in human milk (2-6) and represent the three major HMO families (7).

This 5 HMO complex is now included as part of a groundbreaking formula. This is the first time in history that a milk formula contains HMOs from each of the 3 major families found in human milk.


  • *43.5% of the sum of the 20 major HMOs generally measured in human milk.

  • (1) Nestlé Internal Data

  • (2) Samuel TM, et al. Sci Rep 2019;9(1):1-10

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