Oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates are some of the most important bioactive components in milk. A great deal of information is available on the biological function of the components from human milk. Their primary role seems to be in providing protection against pathogens by acting as competitive inhibitors for the binding sites on the epithelial surfaces of the intestine. Evidence is also available to support the role of some of these components as growth promoters for genera of beneficial microflora in the colon. Compared with human milk, levels of oligosaccharides in bovine milk are very low. Nevertheless, a number of neutral and acidic oligosaccharides have been isolated from bovine milk and characterised. The highest concentration of these molecules is found in early postparturition milk (colostrum). The chemical structure of the oligosaccharides and many of the glycoconjugates from bovine milk are similar to those in human milk. It is likely that bovine oligosaccharides and glycoconjugates can be used in milk products as bioactive components in human nutrition.
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