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Personalized Nutrition for the Diverse Needs of Infants and Children

62nd Nestlé Nutrition Workshop, Pediatric Program, Helsinki, September 2007

Editor(s): Bier D.M. (Houston, Tex.) 
German J.B. (Davis, Calif.) 
Lönnerdal B. (Davis, Calif.) 
Free Access

Human Milk Oligosaccharides: Evolution, Structures and Bioselectivity as Substrates for Intestinal Bacteria

German J. · Freeman S. · Lebrilla C. · Mills D.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA, USA

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Bier DM, German JB, Lönnerdal B (eds): Personalized Nutrition for the Diverse Needs of Infants and Children. Nestec Ltd., Vevey/S. Karger AG, Basel, © 2008. Nestlé Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program, vol 62, pp 205-222

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Human milk contains a high concentration of diverse soluble oligosaccharides, carbohydrate polymers formed from a small number of monosaccharides. Novel methods combining liquid chromatography with high resolution mass spectrometry have identified approximately 200 unique oligosaccharides structures varying from 3 to 22 sugars. The increasing complexity of oligosaccharides follows the general pattern of mammalian evolution though the concentration and diversity of these structures in homo sapiens are strikingly. There is also diversity among human mothers in oligosaccharides. Milks from randomly selected mothers contain as few as 23 and as many as 130 different oligosaccharides. The functional implications of this diversity are not known. Despite the role of milk to serve as a sole nutrient source for mammalian infants, the oligosaccharides in milk are not digestible by human infants. This apparent paradox raises questions about the functions of these oligosaccharides and how their diverse molecular structures affect their functions. The nutritional function most attributed to milk oligosaccharides is to serve as prebiotics - a form of indigestible carbohydrate that is selectively fermented by desirable gut microflora. This function was tested by purifying human milk oligosaccharides and providing these as the sole carbon source to various intestinal bacteria. Indeed, the selectively of providing the complex mixture of oligosaccharides pooled from human milk samples is remarkable. Among a variety of Bifidobacteria tested only Bifidobacteria longum biovar infantis was able to grow extensively on human milk oligosaccharides as sole carbon source. The genomic sequence of this strain revealed approximately 700 genes that are unique to infantis, including a variety of co-regulated glycosidases, relative to other Bifidobacteria, implying a co-evolution of human milk oligosaccharides and the genetic capability of select intestinal bacteria to utilize them. The goal of ongoing research is to assign specific functions to the combined oligosaccharide-bacteria-host interactions that emerged from this evolutionary pressure.

Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Paper

Published online: July 15, 2008
Cover Date: 2008

Number of Print Pages: 18
Number of Figures: 0
Number of Tables: 0

ISBN: 978-3-8055-8553-8 (Print)
eISBN: 978-3-8055-8554-5 (Online)

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Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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