A new study has shown that goat milk infant formula contains similar prebiotic properties to breast milk and could protect against harmful gut bacteria, such as E.coli.
The three-year RMIT University study found 14 naturally-occurring prebiotic oligosaccharides in goat milk infant formula, five of which are also found in human breast milk.
Prebiotic oligosaccharides are non-digestible food that feed beneficial gut bacteria instrumental in supporting immunity and digestive health, maintaining a healthy weight and influencing brain function.
The RMIT study also measured the potential of artificial prebiotics to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and reduce gastrointestinal infections.
Lead researcher and RMIT Professor of Food and Health Harsharn Gill said few studies had attempted to quantify the amount and types of milk oligosaccharides in formula products.
‘‘To our knowledge, this is the first such report showing the richness of oligosaccharides in goats milk-based infant formula and their similarity to human milk,’’ Prof Gill said.
As with breast milk, oligosaccharides present in the formula were found to promote the growth of good gut bacteria, particularly the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species, while inhibiting the adherence of E coli and S. typhimurium to (Caco-2) gut cells.
‘‘These results show that oligosaccharides present in goat milk-based infant formula have strong prebiotic and anti-infection properties, and may confer protection against gastrointestinal infections to the infant,’’ Prof Gill said.
RMIT researchers are now planning to undertake clinical trials to confirm the study results.