Sugar Made Out Of Breast Milk Could Be The Next Big Thing In Health
Two female biologists are tapping into the nutritional benefits of breast milk to revolutionize the way we treat our gut health.
The contingency of jerk-offs made squeamish by the concept of women breastfeeding in public better take a seat for this one, because breast milk in the mainstream is about to make a potentially huge stride.
Sugarlogix—a new biotech company founded by PhDs Kulika Chomvong and Chaeyoung Shin, as well as professors Yong-Su Jin and Jamie Cate—has set out to manufacture a type of sugar usually only found in breastmilk. And they're planning on marketing it for everyday consumption.
It’s not just to push the buttons of man babies, of course; these types of sugars, which are called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), more or less function as food for probiotics—the healthy, beneficial bacteria in your gut that can be found primarily in fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and yogurt. And feeding these live-bacteria buddies with top-notch prebiotics means better health in a number of areas.
“If we consume [HMOs], the population of the good gut bacteria increases, out-populating the bad bacteria that could also reside in your body,” Shin told Fast Company.
“This leads to a healthier digestive system [and a] healthier gut, which will then help in boosting your immune system as well.”
There are as many as 130 different kinds of these milk sugars found in human breast milk, though Sugarlogix is working on manufacturing just one type for starters: 2′-fucosyllactose, or 2′-FL, which has shown to be effective in increasing immune response in babies when used as an ingredient in formula.
But Sugarlogix is seeking to go beyond baby formula. In addition, they’re also planning on producing it as a supplement for adults and as an additive to foods that already contain probiotics, like yogurt.
The process relies on yeast fermentation, much like the process for making beer. “We start out with bakery yeast [and] make genetic changes so that it produces HMOs–this is the technology that separates us from our competitors,” Shin said. “In other words, currently we are the only ones who know how to produce HMOs with yeast.”
It’s worth noting, too, that this isn’t sugar as we know it. It doesn’t contribute sweetness to food and doesn’t function as a source of caloric energy—in fact, human milk sugars don’t pass through the digestive system; rather, they exist to be consumed by the good bacteria in your microbiome (a.k.a. the colony in which all your various microorganisms chill.)
Presently, Sugarlogix is raising its first round of seed investment and is part of the current class of IndieBio, an accelerator based San Francisco. All of which is to say: Keep an eye out for that breast-milk sugar on shelves at a grocery store near you sometime in the near future.
Words: Deena Drewis
Photo: Marcel / GIPHY