Abbott has rolled out Similac Pro-Advance, its first unique infant formula product with an ingredient 2′-Fucosyllactose Oligosaccharide† (2′-FL†) in Canada.

According to the company, breast milk is considered the gold standard to feed an infant, and breastfed babies tend to have stronger immune systems compared to formula-fed ones, due to various immune components including human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).

HMOs are the third most abundant solid component of breast milk, following fat and carbohydrates, and are shown play an important role in digestive health and immunity of infants, according to previous research.

Also, HMOs are found to serve as prebiotics, nourishing the good bacteria in the baby’s gut, and 2′-FL is the most abundant HMO found in the breast milk of most mothers.

Abbott research fellow Rachael Buck said: “At Abbott, we know that breast milk provides protective components a baby needs to thrive.

“That’s why we have spent more than 20 years researching HMOs and their impact on immune and gut health so that we can understand the role they play in supporting the development of a baby’s immune system during the critical first years of their life. We wanted to replicate 2′-FL found in breast milk so that more babies could possibly benefit.”

Abbott said that breast milk is not always available of choice for some parents, where infant formula is the only suitable and safe alternative for babies who are not breastfed.

The company has developed its new infant formula Similac to contain 2′-FL†, an ingredient similar to the structure of 2′-FL HMO, found in breast milk.

A research published in the Journal of Nutrition compared the differences between breastfed babies and those fed formula with or without 2′-FL†, in more than 200 babies.

According to the study, five gaps in immune markers were observed in formula-fed babies when compared to the breastfed group.

The babies fed with the formula containing 2′-FL† demonstrated similar measures of immune function to those observed in the breastfed reference group, indicating that 2′-FL† would support the development of the immune system in infants.

Vibrant Nutrition dietician and nutritionist Nishta Saxena said: “Parents want to know that their child is getting the nutrition they need, and breastfeeding is known to have many health benefits.

“Parents who use formula can feel more confident, knowing that the inclusion of 2′-FL† in infant formula was inspired by an immune component found in human milk.”