HMO – the third most abundant component of human breast milk

HMOs are showing more and more health benefits in recent science, and Chr. Hansen's MyOli HMOs are supported by scientific studies.

Breast feeding provides infants with the best nutrition and start in life1, helping them develop a healthy gut microbiome, a strong immune system and optimal brain development. But for some mothers and infants, breastfeeding is not an option. 

Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are carbohydrates, or complex milk sugars, that are only found in human milk. In fact, HMOs are the third most abundant solid component of human milk, outnumbered only by lipids and lactose.

Scientific data indicates that each HMO may bring a unique health benefit, so each has its own structure and function – its own purpose. There are more than 150 HMOs known so far to occur in human milk. At Chr. Hansen we are today producing the five most dominant HMOs and are developing new HMOs for commercialization. These are all supported by scientific studies.


Nutrients in human breast milk and today's most used HMOs in infant formula

Recent scientific research shows health benefits of HMOs on:

  • Shaping a healthy infant gut microbiome through increasing the abundance of good gut bacteria2
  • May support brain development3
  • Supporting the maintenance of a well-balanced immune system4
  • Reducing the risk of bacterial imbalance through promoting a healthy gut microbiome5
  • Maturing and maintaining the integrity of the intestine6.

Supplemented at the same level as the level in breast milk HMOs may therefore play a role in the growth and development of infants, including cognitive development.

HMOs act as "food for good bacteria"  supporting development of the gut microbiome.2

Immune system
HMOs bind to epithelial cells and glycan receptors in the intestine, supporting immune cell balance. As prebiotics, HMOs promote growth of beneficial bacteria.3

Brain development
Sialylated HMOs are a source for sialic acid  a building block for brain tissue. Sialyllactoses and 2'-FL may support synaptic connectivity, memory function and neurodevelopment.4

Bacterial imbalance
HMOs mimic receptors that pathogenic bacteria attach to, acting as decoys. Beneficial bacteria produce helpful acids, lowering the pH level and limiting growth of harmful bacteria.5

Intestinal barrier
HMOs may support epithelial barrier functions by interaction with the intestinal mucosa. Fermented HMO metabolites energize epithelia cells and may support integrity.6

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MyOli is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S.


References Open Close

1 “The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding together with complementary foods.“ World Health Organization. International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. Accessed June 13, 2023.
2 Gotho et al., 2018, Kostopoulus et al., 2020.
3 Berger et al., 2020.
4 Göhring et al., 2016, Ayechu-Muruzabal et al., 2018.
5 Asadpoor et al., 2020.
6 Oliveros et al., 2021.

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