Breastmilk sugars differ in pregnant women on probiotics: Study

Washington: The composition of breastmilk changes in pregnant women on probiotics, a recent study suggests.

The finding, published in the Journal of JAMA Pediatrics, upends what scientists thought of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) — the sugar molecules found exclusively in human breast milk — and could lead to future studies on how the compounds can be potentially influenced by diet and other factors.

Though HMOs are indigestible for a newborn child, they are consumed by certain species in the microbiome and can significantly affect its composition. As a result, scientists have begun focusing on HMOs as a possible reason that infants who consume breastmilk are less likely to get certain viral and bacterial infections, and other severe conditions such as necrotizing enterocolitis, along with allergic diseases like a food allergy.

The study analyzed data from 81 pregnant women who were enrolled in a probiotic supplementation study in Finland.

The researchers then compared 20 different HMOs in the two groups of women — those taking probiotics and those that were not.

“Because HMOs may be linked to the development of food allergies in an infant, manipulating HMO composition favorably could open up a new avenue for prevention of food allergies,” said Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo, the senior co-author on the paper.