[Human milk oligosaccharides. The rule in the health and development of the infants]

Arch Latinoam Nutr. 2001 Dec;51(4):332-9.
[Article in Spanish]


Breast-feeding is the optimal mode of feeding for the normal full-term infant. Human milk composition knowledge has been basis for recommended dietary allowances for infants. Few studies about human milk carbohydrates have been done until the last decade. However, carbohydrates provide approximately 40-50% of the total energy content of breast milk. Quantitatively oligosaccharides are the third largest solute in human milk after lactose and fat. Each individual oligosaccharide is based on a variable combination of glucose, galactose, sialic acid, fucose and N-acetylglucosamine with many and varied linkages between them, thus accounting for the enormous number of different oligosaccharides in human milk. The oligosaccharides content in human milk varies with the duration of lactation, diurnally and with the genetic makeup of the mother. At present, a great interest in the roles of human milk oligosaccharides is raising. They act as a the soluble fibre in breast milk and their structure is available to act as competitive ligands protecting the breast-fed infant from pathogens and act as well as prebiotic. They may also act as source of sialic acid and galactose, essential for brain development. This is why today there is an increasing health and industrial interest in human milk oligosaccharides content, with the main purpose of incorporating them as new ingredients in infant nutrition.

Publication types

  • English Abstract
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Child Development*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / physiology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / immunology
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / prevention & control
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / immunology
  • Milk, Human / physiology
  • Oligosaccharides / physiology*


  • Oligosaccharides