In a Beneo-funded study, the research team demonstrates the efficacy of an inulin-type oligosaccharide that when blended with infant formula appeared to shorten episodes of infection by increasing Bifidobacterium levels in the gut.
“The research results are especially exciting because they reflect the first year in a baby’s life for the first time and show that the duration of infections was significantly reduced by the group consuming formula enriched with Orafti Synergy1,” comments Anke Sentko, Vice President Regulatory Affairs & Nutrition Communication at BENEO.
“Without a doubt, this is good news for both babies and their parents. With the right choice of ingredients, formulas can be improved by enriching them with prebiotic oligofructose-enriched inulin and brought closer to the gold standard of breast-feeding.”
In a Spanish-German collaboration, the team’s prospective, multicentre, randomised, double-blind study, enrolled 160 healthy term infants under 4 months of age with 149 infants making up the intention to treat (ITT) population.
These infants were randomised to receive either an infant formula enriched with 0.8 grams per decilitre (g/dL) of Orafti Synergy1 or an unsupplemented control formula until the age of 12 months.
Growth, fever (over 38°C) and infections were regularly followed up and digestive symptoms, stool consistency as well as crying and sleeping patterns were recorded for one week each study month.
Faecal microbiota and immunological biomarkers were also noted from a subgroup of infants after two, six and 12 months of life.
The research team found both formulae to be well tolerated with mean duration of infections significantly lower in the prebiotic fed infants .
Additional findings revealed the prebiotic group showed higher Bifidobacterium counts at month six and higher proportions of Bifidobacterium in relation to total bacteria at month two and six.
Stools of infants receiving the prebiotic formula were softer with the team also suggesting that Orafti Synergy1 tended to beneficially impact total daily amount of crying.
“[Findings from the study] reveals that the prebiotics included in the infant formula might have induced a modulation of some immunological processes, presumably as a result of the microbiota modifications and related gastrointestinal immunological parameters,” the team suggests.
“These may include, e.g., secretory IgA, for which a trend for an increase in faecal samples of the prebiotic-supplemented formula group was observed.”
In discussions, the team also highlighted the differences in gut microbiota composition between prebiotic-supplemented formula and non-supplemented formula at months 2 and at 6 months of age.
These differences appear to have disappeared as the ingestion of total amounts of infant formula decreased and diversification of the infant’s diet occurred at this point.
“This effect could also be attributed to the increase of gut microbiota diversity within the maturation process,” the team writes.
“However, this early microbiota modulation is associated with longer term beneficial effects on clinical health and well-being up to 1 year of age. These data support the idea that very early life nutritional interventions can modify gut microbiota establishment, and consequently, its composition and function being determinant for immune system development and immune responses later in life.
Softer stool consistency was also noted with the prebiotic-supplemented formula compared to the standard formula.
“Due to the prebiotic nature of Orafti Synergy1, its fermentation can benefit bowel habits and stool characteristics in formula-fed infants, similar to Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMO), in breast-fed infants.
“Previous reviewed trials consistently demonstrated that the addition of prebiotics to infant formulae has the potential to soften stools, an effect beneficial in particular in infants with hard stools,” the researchers conclude.
Published online: doi.org/10.3390/nu13041276
“Long-Term Safety and Efficacy of Prebiotic Enriched Infant Formula—A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
Authors: Franka Neumer et al.