Nucleotides and Infants

In Japan infant formula has been supplemented with nucleotides since 1965, it took the rest of the world another 20-30 years to catch on to the concept.

Supplementation of infant formula is reported to have beneficial effects on faecal microbiota, by increasing the count of ‘friendly’ bifidobacteria (1), decreasing the count of “harmful bacteria”, reducing the incidence of diarrhoea(2) and modulating immune function (3).

This has triggered research into whether nucleotides are important in adult health and if supplemental nucleotides can enhance health or prevent or treat clinical conditions.

The supplementation of infant formula with nucleotides is considered beneficial since it has been found to influence lipid metabolism, immunity and tissue growth, development and repair (4). The majority of standard infant formulas are now supplemented with nucleotides.

Studies have demonstrated that babies fed nucleotide supplemented infant formula have increased ‘friendly’ bifidobacteria counts in faeces compared to infants fed standard formula milk, but counts were still lower than found in breast fed babies(5). However in other studies, infants receiving a nucleotide supplemented formula had increased colonisation of Escherichia coli compared to infants fed standard formula milk (6). Counts of bifidobacteria were also lower in the infants receiving the supplemented formula. These authors did not support the addition of nucleotides to infant formula milk.

Nucleotide supplemented formulas have also decreased the prevalence and duration of diarrhoeal disease in infants but this was not associated with changes in faecal microflora (7). Thus, mechanisms other than the modification of faecal microflora, for example, effects on the immune system, might be responsible for the reduction in diarrhoeal disease.

Infant studies also suggest those receiving nucleotide supplemented formula have an improved antibody response following immunisation (8)(9).

1. Singal, A., Macfarlane, G., Macfarlane, S., Lanigan, J., Kennedy, K., Elias-Jones, A., Stephenson, T., Dudek, P. and Lucas, A. (2008) Dietary nucleotides and faecal microbiota in formula-fed infants: a randomised controlled trial. Am J, Clin. Nutr. 87:6, 1785-1792
2. Gil, A. (2002) Modulation of the immune response mediated by dietary nucleotides. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56:5 3, 51-54
3. Yu, V. Y. H. (202) Scientific rational and benefits of nucleotide supplementation of infant formula. J Paediatr. Child Health 38, 543-549
4. Carver, J. D. and Walker, W. A. (1995). The role of nucleotides in human nutrition. J. Nutr. Biochem. 6:2, 58-72
5. Gil, A., Pita, M., Martinez, A., Molina, J. A. and Sanchez Medina, F. (1986) Effect of dietary nucleotides on the plasma fatty acids in at-term neonates. Hum. Nutr. Clin. Nutr. 40:3, 185-95
6. Balmer S, E., Hanvey, L.S. and Wharton, B. A. (1994) Diet and faecal flora in the newborn:nucleotides. Archives of Disease in Childhood – Fetal and neonatal Edition 70, F137-F140
7. Brunser, O., Epinoza, J., Araya, M., Cruchet, S. and Gil, A. (1994) Effect of dietary nucleotides supplementation on diarrhoeal disease in infants. Acta Paediatrica 83:2, 188-91
8. Hawkes, J.S., Gibson, R. A., Roberton, D. and Makrides, M. (2006) Effect of dietary nucleotide supplementation on growth and immune function in term infants: a randomised controlled trial. Eur. J. Vlin. Nutr. 60:2, 254-64
9. Schaller, J. P., Kuchan, M. J., Thomas, D. L., Cordle, C. T., Winship, T. R., Buck, R. H., Baggs, G. E. and Wheller, J. G. (2004) Effect of dietary ribonucleotides in infant immune status. Part 1: Humoral responses. Pediatr Res. 56:6, 883-90