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The effect of enteral supplementation of a prebiotic mixture of non-human milk galacto-, fructo- and acidic oligosaccharides on intestinal permeability in preterm infants

  • Elisabeth A. M. Westerbeek (a1), Anemone van den Berg (a2), Harrie N. Lafeber (a1), Willem P. F. Fetter (a1) and Ruurd M. van Elburg (a1)...


Preterm infants have an impaired gut barrier function. We aimed to determine the effects of enteral supplementation of a prebiotic mixture consisting of neutral oligosaccharides (short-chain galacto-oligosaccharides (SCGOS)/long-chain fructo-oligosaccharides (LCFOS)) and acidic oligosaccharides (AOS) on intestinal permeability of preterm infants as measured by the sugar absorption test in the first week of life. Furthermore, we determined host- and treatment-related factors associated with intestinal permeability. In a randomised controlled trial, preterm infants with a gestational age < 32 weeks and/or birth weight (BW) < 1500 g received enteral supplementation of SCGOS/LCFOS/AOS or placebo (maltodextrin) between days 3 and 30 of life. Intestinal permeability, reflected by the urinary lactulose/mannitol (L/M) ratio after oral ingestion of lactulose and mannitol, was assessed at three time points: before the start of the study (t = 0), at day 4 (t = 1) and at day 7 (t = 2) of life. Data were analysed by generalised estimating equations. In total, 113 infants were included. Baseline patient and nutritional characteristics were not different between the SCGOS/LCFOS/AOS (n 55) and the placebo groups (n 58). SCGOS/LCFOS/AOS had no effect on the L/M ratio between t = 0 and t = 2. In both the groups, the L/M ratio decreased from t = 0 to t = 2 (P < 0·001). Low BW increased the L/M ratio (P = 0·002). Exclusive breast milk feeding and mixed breast milk/formula feeding during the first week of life decreased the L/M ratio (P < 0·001 and P < 0·05, respectively). In conclusion, enteral supplementation of a prebiotic mixture does not enhance the postnatal decrease in intestinal permeability in preterm infants in the first week of life.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Dr R. M. van Elburg, fax +31 20 444 3045, email


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British Journal of Nutrition
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