Animal Models for Early Infant Nutrition

Per T. Sangild, Professor, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Mothers own milk remain the golden standard for feeding newborn infants, but how to formulate the best possible milk diet when mothers milk is not available? This seemingly simple question is still difficult to answer and much research is needed to clarify the role of specific milk components on short and long term infant health at many levels. Due to the difficulties in doing well-controlled studies in infants, studies in appropriate animal models may help. Results from models that are hypersensitive to small modifications in milk composition and its preparation will help to define the most important diet ingredients. We present a series of results from preterm pigs that have proven to be highly gut-sensitive in response to manipulation of diet ingredients (lactose, casein, whey proteins, essential fatty acids, minerals/vitamins, lactoferrin, pre-, pro- and anitibiotics) and diet treatments (e.g. spray-drying, pasteurizations). Intact, raw milk remains a better source of nutrients and gut health than most milk formulas, especially for hyper-sensitive newborns. Lactose, and its interaction with the developing gut microbiota, deserves more attention. Research should continue to better define the nutritive and gut protective factors in natural milk that benefit newborn and growing infants.

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