Lipa Blog

HMOs: Milk That Isn’t Just For Babies.


HMO Recap

If you haven't seen our last blog, where we discussed the benefits of HMO for infants, then the term Human Milk Oligosaccharides or HMO may be foreign to you. In essence, HMOs are bio-engineered natural sugars that form the third most common solid found within human breast milk (following fats and lactose) (1).                          

The HMOs that are found in human milk are comprised of different monosaccharides, mostly glucose, galactose and fucose (amongst others) (1). There are close to 200 different forms of HMOs found in breast milk, with the most prominent form being Fucosylated HMOs. The key feature of Fucosylated HMOs is that it helps to promote the growth and metabolism of beneficial bacteria (2). This has led to research regarding the potential benefits of the Fucosyllactose form of HMOs. 

Benefits of HMOs for Adults

Improves on Digestive Health (Gut Stimulation)
The most well-known and prominent feature of HMOs is that due to their non-digestible nature, HMOs are very good at staying within a person's digestive system to help stimulate a person's gut microbiome. This helps to further develop and foster a healthy gut bacterial balance by enabling the growth of positive and beneficial bacteria (3), strengthening the user's gut immunity levels and gut barrier function thus helping protect the user from various gut-related diseases including celiac disease and Crohn disease (3).

Helps Strengthen the User's Immunity Levels
Another key benefit provided by HMOs is that they can help enhance and improve the user's immune defence, as around 70% of a person's immune system resides within their gut (4). As previously discussed HMO's can help promote the development of good intestinal flora and bacteria. This has an aftereffect of improving the user's immunity levels as good bacteria helps to stimulate immune cells, which helps to increase the release of antibodies, helping to better protect the user from common colds and flu's (4).

Gastrointestinal Improvement and IBS
In our previous blog, we highlighted how HMOs were able to help improve the gastrointestinal health of infants by better protecting them against various gastrointestinal diseases and the same is true for adults. HMOs have the natural ability (as an antimicrobial) to directly kill bad gastrointestinal bacteria and reduce the rate of bad bacteria multiplication (5). Studies have also noted that HMO can be highly effective in improving symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), as patients had experienced a significant improvement in regards to their bowel movements and abnormal stool consistency, leading to an overall lower IBS symptom severity score (6).

Neurological Stimulation and the Gut-Brain Axis
HMOs have been seen to have proven effective in helping with brain development in infants, but new information highlights that HMO can also be helpful in adults, with a study highlighting that HMOs can help stimulate the user's ageing brain by improving its cognitive functions. The study notes that this is achieved through the microbiota-gut-brain communication axis (7). This is a direct pathway/connection from a person's gut to their brain and HMOs impact this axis by their natural ability to promote good gut bacteria, therefore, leading to healthy microbiota composition. This directly improves learning and memory mediated through a person's vagus nerve (7).

Contributes to the Protection of Cells from Oxidative Stress
HMOs have also been proven to help reduce the amount of oxidative stress that is held within a person's digestive system. Oxidative stress is caused by your body containing an overload of free radicals compared to the number of antioxidants within a person's body (8), leading to damage in tissue, DNA and proteins. HMOs can help alleviate these issues by strengthening the user's gut microbiota, thus assisting in preventing and repairing intestinal damage that is caused by oxidative stress (9). HMOs can also prevent oxidative stress through their use of Vitamin B2 which helps to contribute to the protection of cells, making it harder for free radicals to react to it (6).

HMO's in Today's World

Recently the first-ever HMO probiotic named PrebilacTM got approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) to be used as a dietary supplement in Australia. This has only increased the expansion of HMOs across the globe as it is also been approved in 13 other countries spanning across the Asia Pacific, Russia, Europe, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile (10).

HMO's recent Australian venture is likely to increase the already expanding HMO market which as of 2019 was situated at 19.3 million (USD) between 2020-2027, experts postulate that the market will expand at 23% (11), with most of the reasoning being the global growing consumption of dietary supplements coupled with increasing consumer concerns relating to their gut health and the growing movement of promoting good bacteria (11).

Final Thoughts

I hope this blog has expanded your view of HMO's, as HMO's can now be seen as multipurpose as it can be used for both infants and adults in a variety of aspects regarding brain health, immunity and digestive health and with the first-ever HMO probiotic being approved in Australia, it will be interesting to see how this impacts the infant and adult health space in the upcoming years.

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1. Adams, C. and Gutiérrez, B., 2018. The benefits of human milk oligosaccharides in adult nutrition. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 4 May 2021]. 

2. Orczyk-Pawiłowicz, M. and Lis-Kuberka, J., 2020. The Impact of Dietary Fucosylated Oligosaccharides and Glycoproteins of Human Milk on Infant Well-Being. Nutrients, [online] 12(4), p.1105. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

3. Šuligoj, T., Vigsnæs, L., Abbeele, P., Apostolou, A., Karalis, K., Savva, G., McConnell, B. and Juge, N., 2020. Effects of Human Milk Oligosaccharides on the Adult Gut Microbiota and Barrier Function. Nutrients, [online] 12(9), p.2808. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

4. Goehring, K., Marriage, B., Oliver, J., Wilder, J., Barrett, E. and Buck, R., 2016. Similar to Those Who Are Breastfed, Infants Fed a Formula Containing 2′-Fucosyllactose Have Lower Inflammatory Cytokines in a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, [online] 146(12), pp.2559-2566. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

5. Palsson, O., Peery, A., Seitzberg, D., Amundsen, I., McConnell, B. and Simrén, M., 2020. Human Milk Oligosaccharides Support Normal Bowel Function and Improve Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Multicenter, Open-Label Trial. Clinical and Translational Gastroenterology, [online] 11(12), p.e00276. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

6. BASF, 2021. PREBILAC™ 2' FL.

7. Holscher et al J Nutr. 2014 May;144(5):586-91; Weiss et al, Br J Nutr. 2014 May;111(9):1602-10; Vazquez et al PLoS One. 2016 Nov 16;11(11):; Bienenstock et al PLoS One. 2013 Oct 2;8(10)

8. Betteridge, D., 2000. What is oxidative stress?. Metabolism, [online] 49(2), pp.3-8. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

9. Cheng, L., Akkerman, R., Kong, C., Walvoort, M. and de Vos, P., 2020. More than sugar in the milk: human milk oligosaccharides as essential bioactive molecules in breast milk and current insight in beneficial effects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, [online] 61(7), pp.1184-1200. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

10. Lam, G., 2021. BASF's 2'- Fucosyllactose receives Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration approval. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 5 May 2021].

11. Research, G., 2020. Human Milk Oligosaccharides Market Size | Industry Report, 2027. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 March 2021].

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Tuesday, 05 July 2022

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