A major modern breakthrough in nutrition and food science has been identifying the health benefits of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). These "healthy sugars" are the second most abundant sugar in breast milk and crucial to proper infant growth and nutrition. However, they don't feed the infant itself. Instead, they feed specific bacteria in the infant's gut that lead to those health benefits.
These prebiotics (or bacteria-feeding sugars) can improve adult gut health as well. As such, companies have been trying to develop a process to produce these sugars that is economically feasible. Now, it seems that a California startup, Sugarlogix, has accomplished this feat and is ready to begin selling their product. As a former research assistant in this field, I am ecstatic about what Sugarlogix is doing.
According to Fast Company, Sugarlogix is producing at least one HMO via fermentation. This sugar, called 2′-fucosyllactose, can be fed to specific bacteria like Bifidobacterium longum infantis in infant and adult stomachs. Only this microbe can break it down, using it to grow enough to force out potentially infectious bacteria like pathogenic E. coli. By ingesting this healthy sugar, we could lower our risk of Parkinson's disease, cancer, and other illnesses linked to improper gut health.
Sugarlogix plans to first release their product as a supplement before introducing it into yogurt, kombucha, and other probiotic-rich foods. The prebiotic can also be theoretically taken in conjunction with supplements of the necessary bacteria.
Unlike most sugars, these are not an energy source for humans. However, they are an incredible dietary and health supplement that I highly recommend taking once available. Gut health is extremely important to overall well-being, and this could be one of the best ways to improve it.