It's all about the oligosaccharides. The what? For those of us who aren't molecular biologists, that big word refers to, as Rachael Buck, Ph.D. explained to Parents.com, nature's prebiotic, which supports gut health and overall health. In a new study published today in the Journal of Nutrition, Dr. Buck shares that a specific oligosaccharide, 2'-FL HMO, which is found naturally in breast milk, has been added to certain Similac baby formulas. (The formulas are made by Abbott, where Dr. Buck is an associate research fellow.)
Buck calls this the "biggest scientific breakthrough in the past 10 years" when it comes to baby formula. "[The addition of] 2'-FL HMO brings babies as close to human milk as possible," she told Parents.com. She adds that nothing can fully replace breast milk, though.
But for parents like me who either cannot or don't choose to breastfeed, this breakthrough is huge. Because now formula-fed babies can benefit from immune-boosting oligosaccharides found in breast milk. The proof is in the research.
Dr. Buck and her team looked at the immune responses of more than 200 babies, whom they divided into three feeding groups: those who were exclusively breastfed, those who were formula-fed without 2'-FL HMO, and those who were formula-fed with 2'-FL HMO. Six weeks later, the babies from the breastfed group showed nearly identical immune markers with the group fed formula with 2'-FL HMO. Those fed the version without the oligosaccharide had statistically different results.
Of course, as Dr. Buck told Parents.com, "We can't promise babies won't get sick." Darn! But this innovation is about strengthening formula-fed babies' immune systems. And it's about narrowing the gap between breast milk and baby formula.
You can buy Similac® Pro-AdvanceTM and Similac Pro-SensitiveTM, both non-GMO, in stores nationwide now.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.