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N-Acetylneuraminic Acid in Breast Milk and Infant Growth in a Gut Microbiota-Dependent Way

Abstract

Juan Li

Breast milk is often referred to as "liquid gold" due to its remarkable nutritional and immunological benefits for infants. It is well-established that breast milk provides essential nutrients, antibodies and other bioactive components that support optimal growth and development during the early stages of life. One such component that has gained significant attention in recent years is N-Acetylneuraminic Acid (Neu5Ac), a sialic acid derivative found abundantly in human breast milk. Emerging evidence suggests that Neu5Ac plays a crucial role in infant growth, particularly in a gut microbiota-dependent manner. Sialic acids are a family of nine-carbon sugars that are widely distributed in nature. Neu5Ac is the most prevalent sialic acid in mammalian cells and secretions, including human breast milk. It serves as a precursor for the biosynthesis of gangliosides, glycoproteins, and glycolipids, which are crucial for brain development, neuronal function, and immune modulation. Additionally, Neu5Ac acts as a receptor for certain pathogens, preventing their adherence to host cells and subsequent infection.

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