Nutritional support for the infant's immune system

Nutr Rev. 2007 Aug;65(8 Pt 1):347-60. doi: 10.1301/nr.2007.aug.347-360.


Newborn babies possess a functional but immature immune system as a defense against a world teeming with microorganisms. Breast milk contains a number of biological, active compounds that support the infant's immune system. These include secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), which confers specific protection against enteric pathogens, as well as numerous other immunological, active ingredients. A number of these ingredients can be used as supplements for infant formulas based on cow's milk. Here, the strength of evidence regarding the immune-stimulating effects of selected minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, pre- and probiotics, and nucleotides is reviewed. An assessment of how these ingredients are used in infant-formula products currently available on the market is also presented.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Immunity, Mucosal / immunology
  • Immunity, Mucosal / physiology
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / immunology
  • Infant Formula
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena / immunology*
  • Infant, Newborn / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Nucleotides / administration & dosage
  • Nucleotides / immunology
  • Probiotics*


  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory
  • Nucleotides