The role of human milk fats in shaping neonatal development and the early life gut microbiota

David Seki, Theresa Errerd, Lindsay J. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Human breast milk (HBM) is the main source of nutrition for neonates across the critical early-life developmental period. The highest demand for energy is due to rapid neurophysiological expansion post-delivery, which is largely met by human milk lipids (HMLs). These HMLs also play a prebiotic role and potentially promote the growth of certain commensal bacteria, which, via HML digestion, supports the additional transfer of energy to the infant. In tandem, HMLs can also exert bactericidal effects against a variety of opportunistic pathogens, which contributes to overall colonisation resistance. Such interactions are pivotal for sustaining homeostatic relationships between microorganisms and their hosts. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms governing these interactions remain poorly understood. This review will explore the current research landscape with respect to HMLs, including compositional considerations and impact on the early life gut microbiota. Recent papers in this field will also be discussed, including a final perspective on current knowledge gaps and potential next research steps for these important but understudied breast milk components.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalMicrobiome Research Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Early life
  • breast milk
  • fat
  • gut microbiota
  • lipids
  • metabolism


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