What is Vivinal® GOS?
Vivinal® GOS contains galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS). GOS are non-digestible carbohydrates, which are almost not broken down by human digestive enzymes. Because of this, they reach the intestine nearly completely intact, where they are then available for the present microflora 2,3.
In the colon they are fermented by, and stimulate the growth of, Bifidobacteria 4,5 . This may result in a broad range of positive health effects 6,7,8.
How is it made?
Vivinal® GOS is produced by enzymatic conversion of lactose present in the whey fraction of cow’s milk by use of β-galactosidases. It consists of galactose chains, starting with glucose, with a degree of polymerization (DP) between 2 and 10.
Vivinal® GOS is the most widely used prebiotic* ingredient for infant nutrition in the world. It contains non-digestible galacto-oligosaccharides. Several studies show that galactooligosaccharides can have following potential benefits for consumers:
Stimulation of growth of bifidogenic bacteria
The galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) present in Vivinal® GOS are non-digestible food components which can be fermented in the large intestine. Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillia are easily able to ferment GOS resulting in stimulation of the growth and/or activity of these bacteria in the colon 9.
Vivinal® GOS can play an important role in the colonization of the new-born microbiota by promoting the growth of bifidogenic bacteria 9-12.
A substantial number of studies with formula-fed infants have shown that infant formula enriched with Vivinal® GOS resulted in a significant increase in Bifidobacteria, in comparison to infants receiving a standard formula without GOS 10-12. Furthermore, similar studies investigating the effect of mixtures of oligosaccharides, among which GOS, on the microflora found comparable effects 13-21.
Contribution to softer and more frequent stools
Stools from formula-fed infants are known to be harder compared to the stools of breastfed infants 35 .
Several studies in infants showed that consumption of infant formula containing GOS (either alone or in a prebiotic mixture) results in softer stools and/or a higher frequency of stools 10,12,14,17,21,36-40.
These results indicate that addition of GOS to infant nutrition may contribute to healthy digestive function in infants.
Contribution to natural defences
Infants are born with an immature immune system, which is biased towards a Th2 response. This increases the risk of an infant developing an allergic disease, such as atopic dermatitis or a food allergy. There are indications that the composition of the intestinal microflora plays an important role in postnatal immune system development 23.
Several studies have evaluated the effect of oligosaccharides, among which GOS, on the incidence of infections in infants. These studies found that the overall number of eczema, infections, respiratory tract infections, intestinal infections, fever episodes and antibiotic prescription were significantly lower in the group fed oligosaccharides 24-28.
In infants at high risk of developing atopic disease, supplementation of infant formula with GOS and lcFOS during the first six months of life was shown to reduce the incidence of atopic dermatitis 27. This effect persisted at two-year and five-year follow up 25,26. These results suggest that early life intervention with oligosaccharides has a prolonged protective effect against development of allergic disease.
Two studies in infants have shown that supplementation of infant formula with GOS and lcFOS increases faecal sIgA to levels that are comparable to those found in breast fed infants 34, 46. Next to that, in vitro studies have shown that GOS can reduce pathogen adhesion in the gut 29,30. Two studies with infants showed a reduction of infections gastrointestinal and respiratory when their infant formula was supplemented with GOS and lcFOS 24, 25.
Vivinal® GOS can act via several routes:
- Indirectly; by inhibiting the binding and/or survival of Escherichia Coli, Clostridia and Cholera toxin in the body, thereby reducing the risk of infections 29, 30
- Indirectly; by the production of antimicrobial substances (products of GOS fermentation, like SCFA) which reduce the proliferation of pathogens 31, 32
- Directly through interaction with immune cells. For example, commercial available oligosaccharides, among which GOS, have been shown to increase the number of NK cells, to increase the levels of serum IgA, and to reduce the plasma levels of IgE and IgG 28, 33, 34.
Improvement of mineral absorption
Adequate bioavailability of minerals is critical for bone development. The mineral calcium (Ca) for example is important for bone mineralization 41. It is known that 75% of the calcium in human milk is absorbed by infants, compared to 20% of the calcium in milk-based infant formulas 41.
GOS has been shown to increase the calcium absorption in both animals and humans 42-45. There are further indications that Vivinal® GOS can also improve the absorption of magnesium 42.
A clinical trial investigating the effect of Vivinal® GOS on calcium absorption in children aged 9-13 years, found that consumption of 5 and 10 g GOS per day during 3 weeks increased calcium absorption 35.