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hydrolysate

What does baby formula have to do with childhood obesity?

Posted 2.24.11 | Christine Graham-Garo

Childhood obesity is one of the most challenging problems facing pediatricians today. About 10% of children younger than 2 years and 21% of children between 2 and 5 years are overweight.1 Young children with excess weight are at an increased risk of being overweight in the future.2 One interesting study that just came out in the Journal of Pediatrics (Dec 2010) compared the weights of infants who were fed cows’ milk formula versus those fed hydrolyzed formulas in which the milk proteins are partially broken down. Interestingly, the study results sound that the infants who were fed the cow’s milk formula gained more weight than the infants fed hydrolyzed formulas.

This finding is similar to another study that found that infants fed a cow’s milk formula gained more weight versus infants who were breastfed. They did note that the hydrolysate-fed infants consumed less formula to satiation than the cows milk formula group. No difference was seen in the length of the infants.

This finding was surprising to researchers, especially when more and more children are becoming overweight. Researchers are still unsure what would cause this difference, but one hypothesis points to the form of the proteins, which are whole in regular cow’s milk formulas, but partially broken down in hydrolysate formulas. One study notes that free amino acids stimulate sensory receptors in the oral cavity and /or gastrointestinal tract.3 In addition, previous research has shown that partially broken down protein chains stimulate a cascade of satiation signals, interestingly. Basically, the infants may have felt full sooner with the hydrolysate formula vs. with the cow’s milk formula.

More research needs to be done on this of course, but this does raise questions in regards to amino acid-based formulas. Will infants who are fed formulas such as Neocate have better weight profiles vs. infants fed milk-based formulas? We will keep our eyes peeled for more research and data on this!

-Christine

  1. Ogden CL, et al Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007-2008. JAMA. 2010;303(3):242-249.
  2. Baird J, et al. Being big or growing fast; systemic review of size and growth in infancy and later obesity. BMJ. 2005;331(7522):929.
  3. San Gabriel A, et al. mGluR1 in the fundic glands of rat stomach. FEBS Lett. 2007:581(6):1119-1123.

What does Hypoallergenic Mean?

Posted 3.30.17 | Nutrition Specialist

Most consumers today believe that a product labeled as hypoallergenic will not cause an allergic reaction, but is this really true?

Let’s start with the basics. The technical definition of “hypoallergenic” is that a product is less likely to cause an allergic reaction, or will cause fewer allergic reactions. There are few federal standards that regulate the use of this term for consumer goods. For many products, like cosmetics, the term “hypoallergenic” may be used without ANY evidence or support. Some companies will use certain tests for a product to support that it’s hypoallergenic.

For infant formulas, however, you can rest assured that the term “hypoallergenic” can ONLY be used when certain criteria are met.

What is a Hypoallergenic Infant Formula?

When it comes to infant formulas, based on calls our nutrition specialists receive on a regular basis, many people think the term hypoallergenic means the product is totally void of any and all things that could trigger an allergic reaction. The reality is a bit more complex.

For an infant formula to claim hypoallergenicity it needs to go through study in a clinical trial. The requirements have been based on recommendations by the According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). According to the AAP, a hypoallergenic infant formula must:

  • Be studied in a clinical trial
  • Be studied in patients with documented cow milk allergy
  • Have been shown to be tolerated by at least 90% of the patients

“Tolerated” means that the formula did not cause an allergic reaction, or that those with cow milk allergy did not have defined symptoms, such as hives, anaphylaxis, or other symptoms of a food allergy.  Only infant formulas made with free amino acids – like Neocate – or extensively hydrolyzed protein, also called peptides, have met the necessary criteria in these studies and can be classified as hypoallergenic. 

Other infant formulas are NOT hypoallergenic. These include formulas made with whole dairy protein, formulas made with soy protein, and formulas made with partially hydrolyzed protein. (Hydrolyzed protein comes from dairy protein, but partially hydrolyzed protein is not broken down as much as extensively hydrolyzed protein.)

Difference Between a Hydrolyzed Formula and Amino Acid-Based Formula

Hydrolyzed formulas are made using protein from dairy, but the milk proteins in those formulas have been broken down into smaller fragments. The body’s immune system may not detect the smaller protein fragments as being an allergen. In some patients with a cow milk allergy, the body still reacts to the protein fragments in extensively hydrolyzed formula, resulting in allergic reactions.

Amino acid-based formulas, which used to be called elemental formulas, use only amino acids as the source of protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and are too small for the body to recognize as being foreign. They are the least allergenic form of protein.

To help you visualize the difference between these two types of formulas, picture a pearl necklace. In this example our necklace represents the strand of amino acids that make a protein.  If you take the necklace and break it into smaller length strands where several pearls are connected, this would look like the peptides used in partially-hydrolyzed formulas. Even shorter strands of a few pearls will look like the smaller peptides used in an extensively hydrolyzed formula.

If you start with individual pearls, then you have a visual example of an amino acid-based formula. In an amino acid-based formula like Neocate, none of the amino acids are attached to each other. In Neocate, the amino acids are NOT derived from dairy protein. The amino acids in Neocate are synthetic, meaning they’re not derived from meat. Most of them are made from plant sugars, and some are completely synthetic.

Here’s another way to look at infant formulas and their potential for triggering an allergic reaction:

Can a Child React to a Hypoallergenic Infant Formula?

It is possible for a child with food allergies react to formulas made with hydrolyzed protein, or peptides. Amino acid-based formulas, on the other hand, are the least allergenic type of formula, meaning they’re least likely to cause a food allergy reaction.

While two types of infant formulas can claim to be hypoallergenic, based on the information above you can see that the term alone doesn’t guarantee that there will NOT be an allergic reaction. It’s important to look at your child’s individual case and discuss with your healthcare professional the type of hypoallergenic formula – amino acid-based or extensively hydrolyzed - that would best fit your needs.

Here are some additional resources that can be helpful if you are currently evaluating various formula types



About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.