Quantitation of bioactive components in infant formulas: Milk oligosaccharides, sialic acids and corticosteroids

Fan Liu, Jan van der Molen, Folkert Kuipers, Sander S van Leeuwen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
40 Downloads (Pure)


Human milk is considered the optimal food for infants with abundant nutrients and bioactive components, which play key roles in infant health and development. Infant formulas represent appropriate substitutes for human milk. There are many brands of infant formula with different ingredient sources and functions on the market. The present study aims to quantify important bioactive components, i.e., milk oligosaccharides (MOS), sialic acids (Sia) and corticosteroids, in different infant formulas and compare these to human milk. In total, 12 different infant formulas available on the Dutch market were analyzed in this study. The concentrations of MOS and Sia were characterized by UHPLC-FLD and LC-MS, while corticosteroids were determined using established UHPLC-MS/MS methods. Among infant formulas, 15 structures of oligosaccharides were identified, of which 2'-Fucosyllactose (2'FL), 3'-Galactosyllactose (3'GL) and 6'-Galactosyllactose (6́'GL) were found in all infant formulas. The oligosaccharide concentrations differed between milk source and brands and were 3-5 times lower than in human milk. All infant formulas contained Sia, N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac) was dominant in bovine milk-based formulas, while N-glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) was major in goat milk-based formula. All infant formulas contained corticosteroids, yet, at lower concentrations than human milk. Insight in concentrations of bioactive components in infant formula compared to human milk may give direction to dietary advices and/or novel formula design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113589
Number of pages10
JournalFood Research International
Issue numberPt 1
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2023


  • Infant
  • Humans
  • Infant Formula/chemistry
  • Sialic Acids/analysis
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Milk, Human/chemistry
  • Oligosaccharides/analysis
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones/analysis

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