Specific HMOs linked to infant brain development: Study

Data published in Nutrients​ indicated that 2´-fucosyllactose (2´FL), 3-fucosyllactose (3FL), and 3′-sialyllactose (3′SL) also played a role in developing white matter in the brains of babies.

“Although 2′FL has been introduced as an ingredient in commercial formula for term infants, our findings suggest that the addition of 3FL and 3′SL could also be beneficial, given their distinct yet complementary influences on early brain tissue organization,”​ wrote scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Colorado Boulder.


HMOs are unique carbohydrates that make up about 10% of the dry weight of mother’s milk. HMOs are not easily digested, so experts postulate that their purpose is to jump-start the infant’s microbiome.

There are over 150 different HMOs. 2’FL is the most abundant and is therefore the most studied. It is already commercially available from a number of different suppliers.

A study published in Gut​ (He et al., 2016, Vol. 65, pp. 33–46) by scientists from Harvard Medical School showed that 2’FL could reduce the inflammatory response to pathogenic bacteria. In addition, a 2017 paper in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition​ (Puccio et al., Vol. 64, pp. 624–631) reported that infants fed formula with 2′FL and lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT), another HMO, had lower levels of bronchitis and required fewer antibiotics.

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