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15 Nov 2014
A randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study1 has demonstrated that babies consuming formula milk that has been enriched with a type of prebiotic called scFOS (short-chain fructooligosaccharides) have increased levels of intestinal Bifidobacteria as compared to babies taking formula supplemented with a placebo (Glossary definition: Bifidobacteria. The study also reported a possible modulation of the immune response in the infants supplemented with scFOS.
Prebiotics (and therefore Fructooligosaccharides) are non-digestible starches that stimulate the production of Bifidobacteria in the large intestines. Chain length has been shown to be important, as the shorter the chain length the more rapidly they ferment in the colon, and the more beneficial short chain fatty acids they produce (See Glossary for definition: short chain fatty acids.
Our gut flora is a vital component of immune health, and as such bottle-fed babies can be at a slight disadvantage, and therefore more prone to allergies and inflammatory conditions. Clinical trials have proven that different strains of bacteria elevate different components of the immune system, such as certain T-helper cells, and as such probiotics are often taken for their immune boosting properties.
Clinically trialled probiotics have been demonstrated in clinical trials to reduce the risk of ‘infectious episodes’ in children by as much as 25%, and to reduce the likelihood of them missing a day from school by as much as 40%. The ability of probiotic strains to boost immunity make them a useful component of any ‘back to school’ health plan, or indeed to help prevent seasonal coughs and sniffles.
Both probiotics and prebiotics (such as scFOS) can significantly influence the development of our microflora. For babies that are not benefitting from probiotic-rich breast milk, the addition of a prebiotic to their milk formula may go some way to supporting healthy Bifidobacteria levels, and supporting better immune function. All babies deserve the very best start in life, and as we all know, health begins in the gut!