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April 12, 2019

Breast milk ingredient might just be the next big thing in adult supplements

The benefits reaped by babies might be available to adults, too – in synthetic form

Alternative Medicine Supplements
07312018_nursing_baby_Flickr Aurimas Mikalauskas/via Flickr Creative Commons


It’s no secret that breast milk is an impressive natural, life-sustaining food for babies, even toddlers.

Now, chemical companies are investing millions in one of its ingredients – an indigestible sugar – as the next big thing in adult supplements.

Companies like DowDuPont Inc. and BASF SE are seeking to boost production of a synthetic version of human milk oligosaccharide, a main ingredient in breast milk, which "escapes digestion, allowing it to reach the colon where it feeds beneficial bacteria," according to a Bloomberg report.

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Among other things, HMO helps babies build strong immune systems and boosts their brain development. But more and more studies suggest the benefits of HMO might apply to adults, too. A 2016 study found that supplementing an adult diet with HMO can be a valuable strategy to shape the human gut microbiota and specifically promote the growth of “good” bacteria. 

Rachael Buck, who leads HMO research at Similac formula-maker Abbott Laboratories, told Bloomberg that the prebiotic could be used in effective treatments for adult health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, allergies and even the aging brain.

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