It was through the study of infant gut bacteria that HMOs were identified and named in the first place, Pediatricians in the late 1800s were investigating how infants' intestinal bacteria influenced their physiology, and by the 1920s it was clear that human breast milk contained a mystery substance that promoted the growth of bifidobacteria in the digestive tract--a "bifidus factor
." In parallel, chemists had been studying the carbohydrates that were highly abundant in human milk (as compared to cow's milk) and had identified a unique carbohydrate fraction called gynolactose.
By 1954, scientists had dubbed these sugars the "bifidus factor
" as they fueled the growth of Bifidobacterium species abundant in the feces of breast-fed infants.
A breast-fed infant derives many benefits, one of which is that breast milk contains bifidus factor
, a substance that promotes the growth of bifidobacteria in the child's colon, giving the child a greater ability to stave off infections as compared with bottle-fed infants.
The prebiotic concept was first commercialized in Japan 20 years ago when fructooligosaccharides were sold as a "bifidus factor
" to enhance the growth of friendly bifidobacteria in the intestinal tract.
The predominance of Bifidobacteria in breastfed infant stools was firstly found over 100 years ago, suggesting that breast milk contains specific molecules that stimulate the growth of these bacteria, defined as bifidus factors