Galacto-oligosaccharides and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides as prebiotics in infant formulas: A review

Silvia Fanaro, Günther Boehm, Johan Garssen, Jan Knol, Fabio Mosca, Bernd Stahl, Vittorio Vigi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present review summarizes clinical and experimental data concerning the possible effects of a prebiotic mixture of short-chain galacto-oligosaccharides and long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides. The results from several studies, made up of over 400 preterm and term infants, clearly demonstrate that the prebiotic mixture under examination specifically stimulates the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli and reduces the growth of pathogens. As a consequence of the changed intestinal flora by the dietary galacto-oligosaccharides and fructo-oligosaccharides, the faecal pH values and the short-chain fatty acid pattern were similar to those found in breastfed infants. In addition, the stool consistency was the same as in breastfed infants. In vitro experiments have demonstrated that the specific short-chain fatty acid pattern, at a pH similar to that found in faecal samples of breastfed infants, reduces the growth of pathogens in a dose-dependent manner but does not influence the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. In an animal vaccination model, the prebiotic mixture improved the response to vaccination. In an allergy model (sensitization by ovalbumin), the allergic reaction was reduced by the prebiotic mixture. The data obtained from animal experiments are in agreement with preliminary data from clinical trials which indicate a reduced allergic response (reduced plasma IgE/IgG4 ratio) and reduced episodes of upper airway infection during the first year of life. Conclusion: Experimental evidence demonstrates that the prebiotic mixture employed in these studies modulates the intestinal flora and modulates the immune system as human milk does. There are sufficient experimental data to put forward the hypothesis that substances like the prebiotic mixture under study will substantially contribute to the improvement of the protective properties of infant formulas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-26
Number of pages5
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics, Supplement
Issue number449
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • Galacto-oligosaccharides
  • Immune system
  • Intestinal flora
  • Long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides
  • Prebiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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