Nutritional benefits are ‘less fat’, ‘less sugar’, ‘less calories’, ‘added fiber’, ‘gluten-free’ as well as energy management, digestive, bone and dental health.
Anke Sentko, vice president regulatory affairs & nutrition communication for BENEO, told DairyReporter recent research data has shown parents across the globe are ready to spend on high-quality baby foods to ensure the well-being of their infants[i] - especially if they have to supplement breastfeeding.
Digestive health remains a key concern for parents across Europe, because it’s closely linked to the immune system, as well as bowel regularity. Sentko said 64% of parents in Europe believe that digestive health plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy immune system[ii] and understand that healthy and prevention-orientated eating is key for stool softness from early on.
“It is no surprise therefore that more and more parents and manufacturers are realizing the potential to promote gut health and the microbiome for children through infant nutrition and wellbeing,” Sentko said.
Digestive health and infant nutrition
Babies are born with an immature immune system and an almost sterile gut. Early programming of their innate and adaptive immune system is strongly influenced by the multitude of bacteria colonizing the gut in their first weeks and months to form the gut’s microbiota, Sentko pointed out. This is a critical and essential process early in life, as it may impact later health outcomes by potentially reducing the risk of obesity, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies[iii] [iv].
Nutrition in infancy can make a big difference. Bifidobacteria are the dominating microorganisms in the gut microbiota of breastfed infants - independent of the region they were born - and high levels of Bifidobacteria in breastfed infants have been associated with reduced counts of potentially harmful bacteria like E. coli and others. Breastmilk is key for promoting the growth of Bifidobacteria due to the high number of prebiotics it contains, which is about equal to the amount of protein.
While breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies and is associated with a protective role in the development of a number of diseases later in life[v], when breastfeeding is not chosen, the baby’s nutrition should be as close as possible to that of a breastfed child, Sentko added.
“In food for infants, children and adolescents, plant-based prebiotic inulin and oligofructose are used for their prebiotic effect, selectively stimulating the bifidobacteria in the large intestine, so that microbiota composition is supported from young,” Sentko said.
Sentko said this is why inulin and oligofructose are part of infant and follow-on formulas around the world; their use supports microbiota composition, increasing levels of bifidobacteria, softening stools and strengthening the immune system.
“There is now a solid body of scientific research confirming the potential benefits of BENEO’s prebiotic ingredients, derived from chicory root fiber, in infant and toddler products,” Sentko said.
“In fact, the efficacy of BENEO’s oligofructose-enriched inulin (Orafti Synergy1) and oligofructose (Orafti P95) for supporting the growth of the gut microbiome in infants and small children has been demonstrated by 15 human intervention studies with prebiotic-enriched infant formula and follow-on formula.
“BENEO’s prebiotic fiber Orafti Synergy1 and Orafti P95, have been shown to bring infant formula one step closer to breast feeding, with the microflora composition in the babies demonstrating a higher proportion of bifidobacteria and softer stools[vi][vii].”
Sentko added that the beneficial effects of BENEO’s prebiotics on the gut microbiota have also been proven in older children.
A new study by Soldi et al[viii] has demonstrated that daily consumption of chicory root fiber in children aged three to six years, can keep the level of bifidobacteria higher and more stable, including during antibiotic treatment. Similar results have also been seen in seven- to 12-year-old children consuming BENEO’s Orafti Synergy1, which induced higher bifidobacteria counts[ix].
According to Mintel, “brands adopting long-term vision will realize that they have a role to play in preparing children to succeed and prosper as adults”[x].
Applications that are seen by parents to promote digestive health and the microbiome are therefore proving popular.
Sentko said ‘high/source of fiber’ claims are increasingly being applied in baby and toddler products (+31% global growth between 2014 and 2018)[xi] and 54% of European parents are extremely/very interested in the gut microbiome[xii]. As parents become more aware of the short and long-term health benefits of helping their infants and children develop a varied gut microbiome, the role of prebiotics in helping promote future life and health continues to grow and so do the application opportunities.
“Prebiotic chicory root fibers from BENEO provide a clinically proven prebiotic effect in infants[xiii], toddlers, kindergarten children[xiv], schoolchildren[xv] and adults,[xvi]” Sentko said.
“As a result, they are proving popular amongst food producers in both infant formulas, follow-on foods and in food for young children over three years old, as they are effective, safe to use, well-tolerated, and naturally derived – unlike many other fibres. In addition, maternal nutrition is becoming an increasing focus and supports the role of prebiotics for both mother and child.”
BENEO is a division of the Südzucker Group that employs more than 1,000 people and has production units in Belgium, Chile, Germany and Italy.
[ii] Source: FMCG Gurus 2019
[iii] Source: Wopereis H, Oozeer R, Knipping K et al. (2014) The first thousand days – intestinal microbiology of early life: establishing a symbiosis.
[iv] Source: Barouki R, Cluckman PD, Grandjean P et al. (2012) Developmental origins of non-communicable disease: implications for research and public health.
[v] Source: Garrido D, Dallas DC, Mills DA (2013) Consumption of human milk glycoconjugates by infant-associated bifodobacteria: mechanisms and implications.
[vi] Veereman-Wauters G, Staelens S, Van de Broek, Plaskie K, Wesling F, Roger LC, McCartney AL, Assam P (2011) Physiological and bifidogenic effects of prebiotic supplements in infant formulae. J. Pediatr. Gastroenterol. Nutr 52(6):763-771
[vii] Closa-Monasterolo, R., Gispert-Llaurado, M., Luque, V., Ferre, N., Rubio-Torrents, C., Zaragoza-Jordana, M., Escribano, J. (2013) Safety and efficacy of inulin and oligofructose supplementation in infant formula: results from a randomized clinical trial. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland) 32, 918–927.
[viii] Source: Soldi et al (2019): Prebiotic supplementation over a cold season and during antibiotic treatment specifically modulates the gut microbiota composition of 3-6 year-old children; Benef Microbes. 2019 Feb 19:1-12. doi: 10.3920/BM2018.0116. [Epub ahead of print]
[ix] Source: Nicolucci AC, Hume MP, Martinez I et al (2017) Prebiotic reduces body fat and alters intestinal microbiota in children with overweight or obesity.
[x] Source: Mintel: The Future of Baby Food and Drink: 2019
[xi] Source: Innova Market Insights
[xii] Source: HealthFocus International 2018
[xiii] Closa-Monasterolo R, Gispert-Llaurado M, Luque V, Ferre N, Rubio-Torrents C, Zaragoza-Jordana M, Escribano J (2013) Safety and efficacy of inulin and oligofructose supplementation in infant formula: results from a randomized clinical trial. Clin Nutr 32(6):918–927.
[xiv] Soldi S, Vasileiadis S, Lohner S, Uggeri F, Puglisi E, Molinari P, Donner E, Sieland C, Decsi T, Sailer M, Theis S (2019) Prebiotic supplementation over a cold season and during antibiotic treatment specifically modulates the gut microbiota composition of 3-6 year-old children. Benef Microbes 10(3):253–263.
Lohner S, Jakobik V, Mihályi K, Soldi S, Vasileiadis S, Theis S, Sailer M, Sieland C, Berényi K, Boehm G, Decsi T (2018) Inulin-type fructan supplementation of 3 to 6 year-old children is associated with higher fecal bifidobacterium concentrations and fewer febrile episodes requiring medical attention. J Nutr 148(8):1300–1308.
[xv] Nicolucci AC, Hume MP, Martínez I, Mayengbam S, Walter J, Reimer, Raylene A., Martinez I (2017) Prebiotic reduces body fat and alters intestinal microbiota in children with overweight or obesity. Gastroenterology 153(3):711–722. http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(17)35698-6/pdf
[xvi] Vandeputte D, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, Wang J, Sailer M, Theis S, Verbeke K, Raes J (2017) Prebiotic inulin-type fructans induce specific changes in the human gut microbiota. Gut 66(11):1968–1974.