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Type of Formula May Influence Infant Weight Gain

MONDAY Dec. 27, 2010 -- The kind of formula babies drink has a major impact on weight gain and could affect their future risk of developing obesity, diabetes and other diseases, new research suggests.

"Events early in life have long-term consequences on health, and one of the most significant influences is early growth rate," study lead author Julie Mennella, a developmental psychobiologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, said in a news release from the center. "We already know that formula-fed babies gain more weight than breast-fed babies. But we didn't know whether this was true for all types of formula."

In a study published online Dec. 27 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers assigned 2-week-old bottle-fed babies to either take a formula based on cow's milk (35 babies) or a protein hydrolysate-based formula (24 babies). The infants drank the formula for seven months. Both had the same amount of calories but the cow's milk-based formula had less protein.

Those who drank the cow's milk-based formula gained weight faster, more than babies typically do on breast milk.

"All formulas are not alike," Mennella said. "These two formulas have the same amount of calories, but differ considerably in terms of how they influence infant growth.

Protein hydrolysate formulas contain pre-digested proteins and often are fed to babies who don't tolerate the intact proteins found in other formulas.

"One of the reasons the protein hydrolysate infants had similar growth patterns to breast-fed infants, who are the gold standard, is that they consumed less formula during a feed as compared to infants fed cow's milk formula," Mennella said. "The next question to ask is: Why do infants on cow's milk formula overfeed?"

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded the study.

More information

Learn more about baby formula from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Posted: December 2010


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