Intestinal microbiology in early life: specific prebiotics can have similar functionalities as human-milk oligosaccharides

R. Oozeer, K. van Limpt, T. Ludwig, K. Ben Amor, R. Martin, R.D. Wind, G. Boehm, J. Knol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


Human milk is generally accepted as the best nutrition for newborns and has been shown to support the optimal growth and development of infants. On the basis of scientific insights from human-milk research, a specific mixture of nondigestible oligosaccharides has been developed, with the aim to improve the intestinal microbiota in early life. The mixture has been extensively studied and has been shown to be safe and to have potential health benefits that are similar to those of human milk. The specific mixture of short-chain galacto-oligosaccharides and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides has been found to affect the development of early microbiota and to increase the Bifidobacterium amounts as observed in human-milk-fed infants. The resulting gut ecophysiology is characterized by high concentrations of lactate, a slightly acidic pH, and specific short-chain fatty acid profiles, which are high in acetate and low in butyrate and propionate. Here, we have summarized the main findings of dietary interventions with these specific oligosaccharides on the gut microbiota in early life. The gut ecophysiology in early life may have consequences for the metabolic, immunologic, and even neurologic development of the child because reports increasingly substantiate the important function of gut microbes in human health. This review highlights major findings in the field of early gut colonization and the potential impact of early nutrition in healthy growth and development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561S-571S
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • chain fatty-acids
  • total parenteral-nutrition
  • formula-fed infants
  • bottle-fed infants
  • segmented filamentous bacteria
  • breast-fed infants
  • 1st 6 months
  • in-vitro
  • gut microbiota
  • galacto-oligosaccharides

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