Recent advances in the design of infant formulas

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Topic(s): Nutrition Health & Wellness Obesity Nutrition & Disease Management

New trends in the design of infant formulas

Breast milk from a healthy and well-nourished mother is the preferred choice of nourishment for a full-term infant. However, when breast milk is insufficient, infant formula can be an ideal alternative to breast milk. Significant research is in progress to understand and accurately mimic the human milk fat (HMF) analogs. A review published in the journal Annual Review of Food Science and Technology discussed human milk fat and infant formula fat analogs.

Lipids are the major energy-yielding macromolecules in the human breast milk (HBM). Lipids provide essential fatty acids (FAs) that affect digestion, absorption, metabolism and physiological functions of the infant. Essential fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, arachidonic acid and gamma-linolenic acid are the chief components of HMF analogs. They play an important role in the development of foetal brain and retina.

Infant formula can be used as an HBM substitute when breast feeding is not possible. Special attention is paid to the use of fat analogs in infant formula to mimic HMF analogs. Structured lipids are used to match the FA composition of HBM. These fat analogs are synthesised by incorporating palmitic acid in FA by lipase-catalyzed reactions to improve absorption of fat and minerals during digestion.

Infant formulas should meet the compositional regulations put forth by authorities worldwide such as the European Commission, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition.

Over the past decades, there have been remarkable developments in the nutritional quality of infant formulas. Novel ingredients that provide key nutrients to the infant and confer immunity and cognitive benefits are being developed. Safety and long-term health effects of the fat analogs should be evaluated before introducing into the infant formula.

News source - Zou L, Pande G, Akoh CC. Infant formula fat analogs and human milk fat: new focus on infant developmental needs. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2016; 7:139-65.