Sialyloligosaccharides in human and bovine milk and in infant formulas: variations with the progression of lactation

J Dairy Sci. 2003 Jan;86(1):52-9. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(03)73583-8.


Several lines of research support a role for human milk oligosaccharides in the defense of breast-fed infants against pathogens. Some ofthese oligosaccharides contain at least one moiety of sialic acid and are, thus, termed sialyloligosaccharides. These constitute a significant component (>1 g/L) of human milk. It is well established that milk composition varies among species, and previous reports have indicated that one ofthe differences between human and bovine milk is precisely their contents of sialyloligosaccharides. Because most infant formulas are manufactured with bovine milk components, it follows that formula-fed and breast-fed infants ingest dissimilar quantities of these carbohydrate structures. To ascertain these differences and their impact along lactation, the contents of oligosaccharide-bound sialic acids and major sialyloligosaccharides in samples of human and bovine milk (obtained at different lactation stages) were determined. In addition, infant formulas were assayed for their sialyloligosaccharide contents. Seven sialyloligosaccharides were identified in human milk; namely, 3'-sialyl-3-fucosyllactose and sialyllacto-N-tetraoses (a and b+c), the predominant structures at all lactation stages. Five sialyloligosaccharides were identified in bovine milk, of which 6'-sialyllactosamine and 3'-sialyllactose were the most abundant. In addition, sialyloligosaccharides in human and bovine milk decreased along lactation, and infant formulas did not contain significant amounts of sialyloligosaccharides. The results point to the general conclusion that regarding both qualitative and quantitative aspects, milk from humans and cows and infant formulas have different oligosaccharide contents. In this sense, bottle-fed infants are subject to reduced sialyloligosaccharide intake as compared to breast-fed infants.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Animals, Suckling
  • Cattle / metabolism
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food / analysis*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Neuraminidase / metabolism
  • Oligosaccharides / analysis*
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry
  • Species Specificity


  • Oligosaccharides
  • sialooligosaccharides
  • Neuraminidase