HMO Science and Research

To prove the impact on human health of Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), we lead a rich program of preclinical and clinical studies with more than 40 research and strategic partners across the world.

What are Human Milk Oligosaccharides?

HMOs are a collection of carbohydrate structures and the third most abundant solid component of human milk after fats and lactose. In infants, HMOs help to develop the desired microbiota by serving as a food source for the good bacteria in the intestine. Naturally occurring in breast milk, HMOs have evolved over thousands of years, with clinical and preclinical studies now suggesting that specific HMOs and levels may provide us with unique health benefits. In particular, they may help support both immunity and a healthy gut, with a potential role in cognitive development, which may open future innovation opportunities.

Global consensus supports breastfeeding as the gold standard to give newborns the best start in life. When mothers cannot breastfeed, or choose not to breastfeed, whatever the reason may be, a safe and suitable breastmilk substitute should be available and fed to the newborn. Together, dsm-firmenich and Glycom support their customers in developing innovative solutions to help set formula-fed infants on a path to a long, healthy life, which is part of dsm-firmenich’s promise to help keep the world’s growing population healthy. 

We support independent science through free donations of our products. We have already donated our Human Milk Oligosaccharides to +55 research programs in more than 40 research institutions across the world. These programs have so far led to 50+ publications. Click here to learn more about our Publications using GlyCare

HMO Research

Emerging evidence from our preclinical research suggests that HMOs:

  • Help to increase the relative abundance of beneficial bacteria, while reducing the growth of potentially detrimental bacteria; for example Clostridium difficile and coli (1)
  • May help the intestinal bacterial composition recover after antibiotic use (1)
  • May help to increase the concentration of beneficial bacterial metabolites which are key nutritional components for intestinal barrier and immune cells, while reducing detrimental metabolites (2,3,4)
  • May support the immune response to rota-virus via modulation of the intestinal microbiota and immune cell populations (5,6)

Important results for infants

A clinical study supplementing with the HMOs, 2’FL + LNnT has reported (7):

  • They are safe and well tolerated when supplemented in infant formula.
  • They help to support the growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • A significantly reduced incidence of lower respiratory tract infections by 43% and bronchitis by 63% during the first year of life as compared to a standard infant formula 
  • A significantly reduced use of antibiotics and fever medication as compared to a standard infant formula during the first year of life 

Older children and adults 

Results from a clinical study using Glycom’s HMOs, 2’FL and LNnT indicate (8):

  • 2’FL and LNnT are safe and well tolerated in adults, at doses of up to 20g/day .
  • 2’FL and LNnT help support the growth of beneficial bacteria, in particular bifidobacteria.

Furthermore, we are specifically investigating the effect of our HMOs on obese children and on participants suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in blinded and placebo-controlled clinical studies.

HMO Product Portfolio

Next-generation HMOs are part of Glycom’s exciting innovation roadmap, with four new HMOs becoming available this year for innovation trials to further catalyze the already fast-growing HMO market. 

We currently offer HMOs from two HMO structural classes: 2'-fucosyllactose (2'FL), the most abundant fucosylated HMO in breast milk, and Lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT), one of the most abundant neutral core HMOs in breast milk.

Readings and Scientific Reviews

The five articles listed here offer good insights into Human Milk Oligosaccharides and their benefits for human health. If you wish to dig deeper, you can find a more comprehensive list of articles here to learn more about HMOs and breast milk.

  1. A scientific review by Professor Lars Bode of the University of California, San Diego entitled “Human milk oligosaccharides: Every baby needs a sugar mama”. This describes the benefits of human milk oligosaccharides for babies. You can find the article in Glycobiology, 2012, vol. 22 no. 9 pp. 1147–1162 or via the following link: Lars Bode article.
  2. A scientific review by Professor Thierry Hennet and Dr Lubor Borsig of the University of Zürich entitled “Breastfed at Tiffany’s”. This describes the benefits of breast milk in general and human milk oligosaccharides in particular for babies. You can find the article in Trends Biochem Sci., 2016, Jun;41(6):508-518 or via the following link: Thierry Hennet article.
  3. A scientific review by Dr Anna Kulinich and Professor Li Liu of the Nanjing Agricultural University entitled “Human milk oligosaccharides: The role in the fine-tuning of innate immune responses”. This describes how human milk oligosaccharides improve the immune system in infants and adults. You can find the article in Carbohydrate Research, 2016, 432, 62e70 or on the following link: Anna Kulinich article.
  4. An article by Jessica Shugart entitled “Superhero sugars in breast milk make the newborn gut safe for beneficial bacteria”. This easy to read article describes the benefits of human milk oligosaccharides. You can find the article via the following link: Jessica Shugart article.
  5. A scientific paper by Dr Emma Elison and several others entitled “Oral supplementation of healthy adults with 2’FL and LNnT is well tolerated and shifts the intestinal microbiota”. This article describes the clinical trial results of our Human Natural Oligosaccharides on adult microbiota. You can find the article in Br. J. Nutr., 2016, Oct; 116(8):1356-1368 or via the following link: Emma Elison article

Further reading - Nestlé Nutrition Institute

If you are a healthcare professional, you can also find several articles on the website of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute via the following link: NNI/human-milk-oligosaccharides.

Further reading – National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

You may also visit the PubMed website for further biomedical literature and publications on HMOs



1. Vigsnæs, L and McConnell, B, “Human Milk Oligosaccharides; a new strategy against post-antibiotic Clostridium difficile?”; UEG J; Oct 2017

2. Vigsnæs, L, Elison, E, and McConnell, B, “Human milk oligosaccharides; now as powerful, specific modulators of the adult gut microbial community”, The 11th Vahouny Fiber Symposium; June 2017

3. Chichlowski, M. et al. Bifidobacteria isolated from infants and cultured on human milk oligosaccharides affect intestinal epithelial function; 2012¸J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 55(3):321-327.

4. Šuligoj, T.; Vigsnæs, L.K.; Abbeele, P.V.; Apostolou, A.; Karalis, K.; Savva, G.M.; McConnell, B.; Juge, N. (2020). Effects of Human Milk Oligosaccharides on the Adult Gut Microbiota and Barrier Function. Nutrients, 12(9), 2808.

5. Li M et al. Human milk oligosaccharides shorten rotavirus-induced diarrhea and modulate piglet mucosal immunity and colonic microbiota, 2014, ISME J 8(8):1609-20.

6. Comstock et al. Dietary Human Milk Oligosaccharides but Not Prebiotic Oligosaccharides Increase Circulating Natural Killer Cell and Mesenteric Lymph Node Memory T Cell Populations in Noninfected and Rotavirus-Infected Neonatal Piglets, 2017, J Nutr doi: 10.3945/jn.116.243774

7. Puccio, G. et al, Effects of Infant Formula With Human Milk Oligosaccharides on Growth and Morbidity: A Randomized Multicenter Trial; J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017 Apr; 64(4):624-631

8. Elison, E. et al, Oral supplementation of healthy adults with 2′-O-fucosyllactose and lacto-N-neotetraose is well tolerated and shifts the intestinal microbiota, 2016, Br J Nutr; 116(8):1356-1368.

More than ingredients

Learn how DSM can help your business. Select the options below to connect your needs with the right solution.

I'd like to explore...

If the options above don't sound like you, skip ahead and contact us.

Quick Links

Premix Solutions

Customized blends of desired functional ingredients in one single, efficient, homogenous premix. 

Health Benefits & Solutions

Solutions to address consumers' health and lifestyle needs.

Market-ready Solutions

Streamline your product development process and get to market faster.

We're innovators in nutrition, health, and beauty. And we bring progress to life! 

Talking Nutrition

Explore new science, consumer insights, industry events and more.

Customer Portal

Request samples, place orders and view product documentation.