In order to understand the difference between hydrolyzed formulas and amino acid-based formulas like Neocate, it’s important to understand the basics of protein and the role that it plays in food allergies.
Proteins are made up of little particles called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids. All types of protein are by variations of linked amino acids. Protein is in the foods we eat and also in our bodies. Every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies is made up of protein. Our body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. The protein in the foods we eat is digested into amino acids that are later used to replace these proteins in our bodies, which is why it is so important for us to get enough protein from our diets.
Most people get plenty of protein in their diet from foods like dairy, meats/poultry/fish, legumes, nuts & seeds, tofu, eggs and grains. But, for people with food protein allergies, it’s more difficult to get adequate protein because many forms of protein are restricted. Babies who are allergic to milk or soy proteins often need a specialized infant formula in order to get their nutrition. Sometimes the doctor may recommend a hydrolyzed formula. With hydrolyzed formulas, whole proteins (which are made of long chains of linked amino acids) have been broken down into shorter chains of amino acids to make them easier to digest.
Some babies improve with hydrolyzed formulas but others continue to have problems because their body’s still identify that the broken down protein comes from milk. For these babies, an amino acid-based formula like Neocate is helpful. As the name suggests, amino acid-based formulas are made up of free amino acids, not linked together but broken down into their simplest form. This allows babies to get all the nutrition they need in an elemental, hypoallergenic form that is easy for the body to digest and absorb.
If your baby is taking a hydrolyzed formula and continuing to have some symptoms of a food allergy, it may be a good idea to discuss an amino acid-based formula with their pediatrician.