Effect of bovine milk fat-based infant formulae on microbiota, metabolites and stool parameters in healthy term infants in a randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled trial

Ellen Looijesteijn*, Rutger W.W. Brouwer, Ruud J.W. Schoemaker, Laurien H. Ulfman, Stephanie L. Ham, Prescilla Jeurink, Eva Karaglani, Wilfred F.J. van IJcken, Yannis Manios

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Natural enrichment of sn-2 palmitate content of infant formulae by using bovine milk fat is known to reduce formation of faecal fatty acid soaps and to improve stool consistency, but effects on gut microbiota composition are unknown. The purpose of this study was to test the influence of milk fat-based formula high in sn-2 palmitate on the infants’ gut microbiota composition and to confirm the beneficial effects of the formula on formation of faecal fatty acid soaps and stool consistency. Methods: Twenty-two healthy term, formula-fed infants were enrolled in a single-blinded randomized, crossover, placebo-controlled trial. After a 2-week run-in period, infants received either a 50% milk fat-based formula containing 39% sn-2 palmitate (MF) or a vegetable fat-based formula (VF) containing 10% sn-2 palmitate in a 2 × 2-week crossover design. Faecal microbiota composition was the primary outcome of the study. Other outcomes included faecal fatty acid soap excretion, calcium excretion, gut comfort parameters and faecal metabolites. Results: Microbiota analysis showed that bifidobacteria dominated the gut microbiota of most infants. Neither alpha- nor beta-diversity was significantly influenced by the intervention. Also, abundance of metabolic pathways was independent of the intervention. The MF formula resulted in significantly lower faecal levels of palmitic acid soap (p = 0.0002) and total fatty acid soaps (p = 0.0001) than the VF formula. Additionally, calcium excretion and palmitic acid concentration were significantly (p = 0.0335) lower in stool samples after MF intervention. Furthermore, a significant physiological effect on softer stools was observed in the MF intervention compared to the VF intervention (p = 0.02). Of the 870 measured faecal metabolites, 190 were significantly different after MF and VF intervention (FDR corrected p < 0.05). Most of these were found at higher levels after MF intervention, potentially indicative of the complex structure of milk fat. Metabolites with more than twofold change between interventions were mostly lipid-derived and included several milk fat-specific fatty acids. Conclusions: Replacing part of the vegetable fat in infant formula with bovine milk fat with high sn-2 palmitate levels did not change the microbiota composition, although a reduction in faecal palmitate soaps, total fatty acid soaps and calcium excretion while improving stool consistency in the MF intervention was confirmed. In addition, 190 faecal metabolites were significantly different, many related to the fat source. Trial registration: Netherlands Trial Registry Identifier: NL7815 19/06/2019.

Original languageEnglish
Article number93
JournalBMC Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present study was funded by FrieslandCampina Nederland B.V. and is part of an Agri and Food Public Private Partnership, project TKI-AF18142 entitled Combining deep sequencing omics approaches to translate an altered microbial composition towards health benefits. FrieslandCampina was involved in the design of the study, interpreting the data and writing the manuscript. FrieslandCampina was not involved in the recruitment of participants, data collection, management or analysis of clinical outcomes.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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