Goat Milk Oligosaccharides: Their Diversity, Quantity, and Functional Properties in Comparison to Human Milk Oligosaccharides

Sander S van Leeuwen*, Evelien M Te Poele, Anastasia Chrysovalantou Chatziioannou, Eric Benjamins, Alfred Haandrikman, Lubbert Dijkhuizen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Human milk is considered the golden standard in infant nutrition. Free oligosaccharides in human milk provide important health benefits. These oligosaccharides function as prebiotics, immune modulators, and pathogen inhibitors and were found to improve barrier function in the gut. Infant formulas nowadays often contain prebiotics but lack the specific functions of human milk oligosaccharides (hMOS). Milk from domesticated animals also contains milk oligosaccharides but at much lower levels and with less diversity. Goat milk contains significantly more oligosaccharides (gMOS) than bovine (bMOS) or sheep (sMOS) milk and also has a larger diversity of structures. This review summarizes structural studies, revealing a diversity of up to 77 annotated gMOS structures with almost 40 structures fully characterized. Quantitative studies of goat milk oligosaccharides range from 60 to 350 mg/L in mature milk and from 200 to 650 mg/L in colostrum. These levels are clearly lower than in human milk (5-20 g/L) but higher than in other domesticated dairy animals, e.g., bovine (30-60 mg/L) and sheep (20-40 mg/L). Finally, the review focuses on demonstrated and potential functionalities of gMOS. Some studies have shown anti-inflammatory effects of mixtures enriched in gMOS. Goat MOS also display prebiotic potential, particularly in stimulating growth of bifidobacteria preferentially. Although functional studies of gMOS are still limited, several structures are also found in human milk and have known functions as immune modulators and pathogen inhibitors. In conclusion, goat milk constitutes a promising alternative source for milk oligosaccharides, which can be used in infant formula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13469-13485
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number47
Early online date3-Nov-2020
Publication statusPublished - 25-Nov-2020


  • goat milk oligosaccharides
  • health benefits
  • prebiotics
  • quantitative analysis
  • structures

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