Comparing patterns of volatile organic compounds exhaled in breath after consumption of two infant formulae with a different lipid structure: a randomized trial

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 24;9(1):554. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37210-5.


Infant formulae have been used since decades as an alternative to or a complement to human milk. Human milk, the "gold standard" of infant nutrition, has been studied for its properties in order to create infant formulae that bring similar benefits to the infant. One of the characteristics of milk is the size of the lipid droplets which is known to affect the digestion, gastric emptying and triglyceride metabolism. In the current study a concept infant milk formula with large, phospholipid coating of lipid droplets (mode diameter 3-5 μm; NUTURIS, further described as "active"), was compared to a commercially available formula milk characterised by smaller lipid droplets, further described as "control" (both products derived from Nutricia). We investigated whether we could find an effect of lipid droplet size on volatile compounds in exhaled air upon ingestion of either product. For that purpose, exhaled breath was collected from a group of 29 healthy, non-smoking adult males before ingestion of a study product (baseline measurements, T0) and at the following time points after the test meal: 30, 60, 120, 180 and 240 min. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in breath were detected by gas chromatography-time-of-flight-mass spectrometry. Any differences in the time course of VOCs patterns upon intake of active and control products were investigated by regularised multivariate analysis of variance (rMANOVA). The rMANOVA analysis revealed statistically significant differences in the exhaled breath composition 240 min after ingestion of the active formula compared to control product (p-value < 0.0001), but did not show significant changes between active and control product at any earlier time points. A set of eight VOCs in exhaled breath had the highest contribution to the difference found at 240 minutes between the two formulas. A set of ten VOCs was different between baseline and the two formulae at T240 with p-value < 0.0001. To our knowledge this is the first study that shows the ability of VOCs in exhaled breath to monitor metabolic effects after ingestion of infant formulae with different lipid structure. The statistically significant differences in compound abundance found between active and control formula milk may be related to: (i) specific differences in the digestion, (ii) absorption of lipids and proteins and (iii) assimilation of the products in the gut.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breath Tests / methods
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Exhalation / physiology*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Gastrointestinal Absorption / physiology
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Infant Formula / chemistry*
  • Lipid Droplets / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Phospholipids
  • Volatile Organic Compounds