Initial bacterial colonization, including colonization with health-positive bacteria, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, is necessary for the normal development of intestinal innate and adaptive immune defenses. The predominance of beneficial bacteria in the gut microflora of breast-fed infants is thought to be, at least in part, supported by the metabolism of the complex mixture of oligosaccharides present in human breast milk, and a more adult-type intestinal microbiota is found in formula-fed infants. Inadequate gut colonization, dysbiosis, may lead to an increased risk of infectious, allergic, and autoimmune disorders later in life. The addition of appropriate amounts of selected prebiotics to infant formulas can enhance the growth of bifidobacteria or lactobacilli in the colonic microbiota and, thereby, might produce beneficial effects. Among the substrates considered as prebiotics are the oligosaccharides inulin, fructo-oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides, and lactulose. There are some reports that such prebiotics have beneficial effects on various markers of health. For example, primary prevention trials in infants have provided promising data on prevention of infections and atopic dermatitis. Additional well-designed prospective clinical trials and mechanistic studies are needed to advance knowledge further in this promising field.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health