Infant Nutrition Expert Previews Upcoming Webinar on Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs)

By: Talking Nutrition Editors

Dr. Hania Szajewska provides an insightful preview of her upcoming webinar on the impact of HMOs on infant health

  • DSM is pleased to launch a webinar discussing how HMOs impact infant health with world-renowned scientist and physician – Prof. Hania Szajewska on Wednesday, 18 November 2020. There will be two live broadcasts to meet all time zones.
  • Professor Hania Szajewska, MD explains why HMOs are the “missing link” between infant formula and breastmilk and describes key benefits they provide. 
  • Click HERE to register for the live webinar, which will be available on-demand after the launch, as well.

A webinar you don’t want to miss 

On Wednesday, 18 November 2020 (9:00 AM AND 16:00 PM CET) DSM will welcome Prof. Hania Szajewska, a world-renowned expert in pediatric gastroenterology to present a webinar on Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs) and their impact on infant health. The webinar will provide an update on the most recent science surrounding the role of HMOs in breast milk. Prof. Szajewska will also describe how an HMO structure affects their function, including their immune supportive effects, how HMO benefits can be applied to formula-fed infants, and what she considers the most promising areas for future HMO research. Read below for a preview of what you can expect when you join the webinar. 

HMOs 101: What to know before you watch

Breastmilk provides the best start in life for infants. It contains essential nutrients for an infant’s growth and development. Breastmilk also influences the development of the infants digestive and immune systems by providing the beneficial bacteria in our gut with the food needed to fuel their growth, and support a complex and finely balanced gut microbiota. 

HMOs are naturally occurring prebiotics that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut.1 They are complex carbohydrates found in human breastmilk and the third largest component of breastmilk (excluding water). HMOs mostly escape digestion in the small intestine and arrive in the colon largely intact, where they serve as food for beneficial bacteria like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus.2 Some of the positive health outcomes in breastfed infants may be due, in part, to HMOs. 

An interview with HMO expert, Prof. Hania Szajewska

Professor Hania Szajewska, MD is uniquely qualified to present this webinar. She is a world-renowned expert in pediatric gastroenterology with a research focus on probiotics, prebiotics, and how early dietary interventions effect long-term health. Prof. Szajewska is the Chair of  the Department of Paediatrics of The Medical University of Warsaw and a board member of International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. Prof. Szajewska has over 300 publications and 25 book chapters. Until 2019, she served as the Editor-in-Chief (Europe) of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. Previously, Prof. Szajewska served as a member of the Council and then as the General Secretary of the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN). 

Our recent interview with Prof. Szajewska lays the groundwork for what you’ll learn more about during her webinar.  

  1. HMOs have been described as a “missing link” between infant formula and breastmilk. What makes HMOs so special?
    HMOs provide unique benefits to the growing infant that were previously only available to breastfed infants. Milk oligosaccharides found in cow’s milk – the main ingredient in most infant formulas – lack the structure and complexity of HMOs.3 There are over 200 different HMOs identified in human milk. Variation in type and concentration change over the lactation period, by maternal genetics, geographic region, and ethnicity. HMOs appear to provide both direct and indirect effects that influence positive health outcomes.
  2. What body systems do HMOs influence?
    The gastrointestinal system – or gut – is the first and most obvious system affected by HMOs.  Here, they serve as a prebiotic food for beneficial bacteria. Healthy gut development is of great importance during infancy. It helps promote growth and development through digestion while facilitating nutrient and fluid absorption. The gut is also intricately linked to immune function.4

    HMOs also play an important role in immune system development by helping support gut barrier function.5, 6 They also can have a direct effect on immune cells.7-9 Recent research also shows HMOs may affect brain development and function.10, 11 
  3. Does the type of HMO make a difference in terms of the benefit it offers?
    The structure of the HMO appears to affect its function. Emerging evidence is giving us a greater understanding of how they work and their potential role in infant health. Some HMOs, like DFL, appear to primarily effect gut and immune health.12, 13 While others show promise in the areas of brain development and functioning, like 3’SL and 6’SL.14 A variety of HMOs may be required to achieve the greatest health benefits. 
  4. According to the research to date, how might adding HMOs to infant formulas impact an infant's health or development outcomes? 
    Studies assessing health outcomes in infants given formula supplemented with HMOs continue to grow. Both preclinical and clinical trials have found that HMOs help create a balanced gut microbiota by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.15 In a study in infants who received infant formula with HMOs, parents reported less colic for infants born via Cesarean section, less bronchitis, and fewer respiratory tract infections.* Additionally, parents reported reduced medication usage including antibiotics in the first year of life and medications to treat fevers.*15, 16 Research with HMOs in infant formula is limited, but I anticipate this field of study to grow quickly. 

*compared to infants who received infant formula without HMOs

Learn more about HMOs by joining DSM’s webinar on Wednesday, 18 November 2020 at either 9:00 am or 16:00 pm CET. On-demand viewing will be available after the live event.

Published on

10 November 2020


  • Health Benefit Solutions
  • Optimize your immunity
  • Pregnancy
  • Nutrition Improvement
  • Early Life
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Senior Management


7 min read

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  1. Gibson GR, Hutkins R, Sanders ME, et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;14(8):491. 
  2. Berger PK, Plows JF, Jones RB, et al. Human milk oligosaccharide 2’-fucosyllactose links feedings at 1 month to cognitive development at 24 months in infants of normal and overweight mothers. PLoS ONE. 2020;15(2)doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0228323
  3. Urashima T, Taufik E, Fukuda K, Asakuma S. Recent advances in studies on milk oligosaccharides of cows and other domestic farm animals. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2013;77(3):455-66. doi:10.1271/bbb.120810
  4. Salminen S, Stahl B, Vinderola G, Szajewska H. Infant Formula Supplemented with Biotics: Current Knowledge and Future Perspectives. Nutrients. Jun 30 2020;12(7)doi:10.3390/nu12071952
  5. Holscher HD, Davis SR, Tappenden KA. Human milk oligosaccharides influence maturation of human intestinal Caco-2Bbe and HT-29 cell lines. J Nutr. May 2014;144(5):586-91. doi:10.3945/jn.113.189704
  6. Hester SN DS. Individual and combined effects of nucleotides and human milk oligosaccharides on proliferation, apoptosis, and necrosis in a human fetal intestinal cell line. Food Nutr Sci. 2012;3:1567-1576.
  7. Laucirica DR, Triantis V, Schoemaker R, Estes MK, Ramani S. Milk Oligosaccharides Inhibit Human Rotavirus Infectivity in MA104 Cells. J Nutr. Sep 2017;147(9):1709-1714. doi:10.3945/jn.116.246090
  8. Xiao L, Engen PA, Leusink-Muis T, et al. The Combination of 2'-Fucosyllactose with Short-Chain Galacto-Oligosaccharides and Long-Chain Fructo-Oligosaccharides that Enhance Influenza Vaccine Responses Is Associated with Mucosal Immune Regulation in Mice. J Nutr. May 1 2019;149(5):856-869. doi:10.1093/jn/nxz006
  9. Eiwegger T, Stahl B, Haidl P, et al. Prebiotic oligosaccharides: In vitro evidence for gastrointestinal epithelial transfer and immunomodulatory properties. Ped Allergy Immunol. 2010;21(8):1179-1188. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3038.2010.01062.x
  10. Wang S, Harvey L, Martin R, et al. Targeting the gut microbiota to influence brain development and function in early life. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. Dec 2018;95:191-201. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.09.002
  11. Oliveros E, Ramirez M, Vazquez E, et al. Oral supplementation of 2′-fucosyllactose during lactation improves memory and learning in rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2016;31:20-27. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.12.014
  12. Craft KM, Townsend SD. Mother Knows Best: Deciphering the Antibacterial Properties of Human Milk Oligosaccharides. Acc Chem Res. Mar 19 2019;52(3):760-768. doi:10.1021/acs.accounts.8b00630
  13. Borewicz K, Gu F, Saccenti E, et al. Correlating Infant Faecal Microbiota Composition and Human Milk Oligosaccharide Consumption by Microbiota of One-Month Old Breastfed Infants. Mol Nutr Food Res. Apr 24 2019;63(13):e1801214. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201801214
  14. Tarr AJ, Galley JD, Fisher SE, Chichlowski M, Berg BM, Bailey MT. The prebiotics 3'Sialyllactose and 6'Sialyllactose diminish stressor-induced anxiety-like behavior and colonic microbiota alterations: Evidence for effects on the gut-brain axis. Brain Behav Immun. Nov 2015;50:166-177. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2015.06.025
  15. Berger B, Porta N, Foata F, et al. Linking Human Milk Oligosaccharides, Infant Fecal Community Types, and Later Risk To Require Antibiotics. mBio. 2020;11(2):e03196-19. doi:10.1128/mBio.03196-19
  16. Puccio G, Alliet P, Cajozzo C, et al. Effects of Infant Formula With Human Milk Oligosaccharides on Growth and Morbidity: A Randomized Multicenter Trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. Apr 2017;64(4):624-631. doi:10.1097/mpg.0000000000001520

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