Investigation of formula purchases in the United States questions labeling practices

Many US formulas included substitute carbohydrates such as corn syrup or table sugar

A new study by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that much of the infant formula sold in the United States is lactose-restricted, even though it’s not medically necessary for most families. The sugars found in reduced-lactose infant formula are associated with an increased risk of obesityChanges in the microbiome and formation of biofilms on teeth.

“Lack-lactose formula contains an alternative form of carbohydrate, often this is corn syrup or corn syrup solids,” said Bridget Young, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Breastfeeding and Lactation at URMC and first author of the study. on the front label; The only surefire way for families to find out is to turn the container over and check the ingredients to see if alternative carbs are listed.

The study was based on purchasing data from software company Information Resources, Inc. The data included all major hypermarkets in the United States (excluding Costco) that sold infant formula in the United States between 2017 and 2019.

The research analysis considered more than 1.65 billion liters of formula. The researchers received protein and carbohydrate compositions and scoop sizes for each formula from the manufacturers.

Analysis of the formula purchased in these stores revealed the following:

  • 5.5% of infant formulas sold were hypoallergenic (specifically formulated for children with cow’s milk protein allergy), which is higher than estimates of 1.3% of cow’s milk protein allergy in infants.
  • 59% of all formulas sold were low-lactose — meaning the formulas contained substitute carbohydrates like corn syrup or table sugar.
  • Thirty-two percent of all “standard formula” sold — formula for healthy infants that is not fortified and contains intact milk proteins — was found to be low-lactose, even though that category has no medical indication.

(Prepared and liquid products, products for preterm infants and products for children over 1 year were not included in the study.)

What the study found

Purchasing data suggests far more children are consuming these formulas than are medically necessary. Young claims these formulas are safe and that infants can thrive on any type of formula, but there is evidence of nutritional risk because non-lactose carbohydrates are significantly sweeter than lactose and are metabolized differently in the body.

“This research has significant public health implications and highlights ways we can improve the regulation and marketing of infant formula,” said Young Information; it should face forward.”

According to Young, standard formula brands should be made to mimic human milk as closely as possible, and hypoallergenic formula — which is usually more expensive than standard formula — should be clearly labeled so parents understand it’s intended for children with a cow’s milk allergy (all hypoallergenic formulas are lactose-reduced).

“Breast milk is the gold standard, so reduced-lactose brands are a big departure unless the baby has a medical need for it,” she said.

In light of these findings, Young encourages parents and caregivers to speak with their pediatrician about the best formula for their children and is calling on the FDA to regulate how lactose-free carbohydrates can be used in infant formula and ensure this information is clearly labeled on the product .

“Parents have been through so much in the past few years,” says Young, “that they shouldn’t need a PhD in nutrition to decipher what’s in their baby’s formula. This type of information should be transparent and easily accessible.”

About Ellen Lewandowski

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