Do HMOs hold the key to advanced gut health innovation?

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors

  • Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) have been studied for more than 130 years and are well-recognized ingredients in infant nutrition. While scientific exploration of these unique nutrients continues, emerging research suggests that they may offer health benefits beyond infancy, especially in gut health.
  • Recently, dsm-firmenich’s presentation ‘The HMO journey: Supporting a Lifetime of Health’ at IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas explored the role of HMOs throughout life, and how their benefits can be leveraged by brands in the dietary supplements market. 
  • Read on to discover the key takeaways from Dr. Sonia Hartunian-Sowa’s discussion, and how these new insights are inspiring the development of next generation HMO solutions that meet growing consumer demand for advanced gut care.

Gut health is quickly becoming an important priority for many consumers worldwide. Driven by lifestyle disruption in an ever-changing world, 74% of individuals are now interested in products that enhance their digestion and 57% aim to eat foods that support a healthy microbiome.1 HMOs are the third most abundant solid component of human breast milk, after lactose and lipids. They are widely studied in infant nutrition, where they play a role in intestinal health and supporting a balanced gut microbiota, as well as benefiting immunity and brain health. 

However, new research suggests that HMOs may be an emerging ingredient for a healthy gut beyond infancy, too. This creates new opportunities for dietary supplement manufacturers to develop unique, gut-strengthening nutrition solutions.

Want to learn more about the promising benefits of HMOs?

HMOs: a next generation solution for gut health

During the session, Dr. Sonia Hartunian-Sowa reviewed the growing body of scientific evidence highlighting how HMOs may help to support a healthy microbiome and benefit health throughout life. HMOs strengthen the mucousal barrier by producing short-chain fatty acids, which lower intestinal pH – an important element of gut barrier function2,3,4, and have been shown to aid tight junction protein expression, which strengthens the intestinal epithelium – a barrier that helps to support the immune system2,5,6. In one clinical trial investigating the impact of HMOs on the intestinal microbiota in 100 healthy adults, daily HMO supplementation for 14 days also significantly increased bifidobacteria – a probiotic that supports normal gut function.7

Consumer perception of HMOs

There are a select few nutrients that consumers associate with digestive health, including fiber, probiotics and prebiotics. However, although only 38% of consumers (in the US) are currently aware of HMOs, Dr. Sonia Hartunian-Sowa revealed that 78% would purchase a dietary supplement containing HMOs after learning about the associated health benefits.8

dsm-firmenich’s GlyCare™ HMOs do more

dsm-firmenich is spearheading innovation in the HMO space. As a reliable end-to-end, innovative and purpose-led partner, dsm-firmenich offers the widest portfolio of commercially available science backed HMOs on the market. Powered by its customized solutions and expert services, dsm-firmenich is uniquely positioned to support your entire product life cycle, from concept to consumer.

Discover how this is creating a platform for early life nutrition and dietary supplement innovation.

Published on

03 August 2021


  • Improve your gut health
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Article
  • R&D
  • Marketing
  • HMOs


4 min read

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  1. Lightspeed/Mintel; KuRunData/Mintel.
  2. Smilowitz et al. Breast milk oligosaccharides: structure-function relationships in the neonate. Annu Rev Nutr., vol. 34, pg. 143-169, 2014.
  3. Yu et al. Utilization of major fucosylated and sialylated human milk oligosaccharides by isolated human gut microbes. Glycobiology, vol. 23, pg. 1281-1292, 2013.
  4. Triantis et al. Immunological effects of human milk oligosaccharides. Front Pediatr., vol. 2, pg. 190, 2018.
  5. Chichlowski et al. Bifidobacteria isolated from infants and cultured on human milk oligosaccharides affect intestinal epithelial function. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr., vol. 55, pg. 321-327, 2012.
  6. Ryu Okumura and Kiyoshi Takeda Experimental & Molecular Medicine (2017) 49, e338; doi:10.1038/emm.2017.20; published online 26 May 2017
  7. Elison et al. Oral supplementation of healthy adults with 2′-O-fucosyllactose and lacto-N-neotetraose is well tolerated and shifts the intestinal microbiota. British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 116, pg. 1356-1368, 2016. 
  8. Qualtrics Custom HMOs Survey, November 2020. n=417.

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