A group of Italian researchers compared the effects of a powdered baby formula containing plant oils and dairy fats in healthy babies.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding as the ideal method of feeding babies. Human milk is vital for infants because it contains fats which provide 45-55% of energy consumed by the baby. Currently, many infant formulas contain plant oils, which serve as the main fat source. The fats present in plant oils are equivalent to those in human milk with regards to cholesterol and fat contents. The authors suggested that dairy fat could serve as a potentially effective alternative additive in baby formula –that closely resembles human milk in the structure of fats –to maximize infant growth and health.
To test this hypothesis, the researchers carried out a study that examined the effects of a baby formula containing a mixture of plant oils and dairy fats in a group of healthy babies. They specifically examined how that formula affected the babies’ growth and digestive system and compared the results to babies who were breastfed.The results of this study were published in the BMC Pediatrics Journal.
A total of29 breast-fed babies and 88 formula-fed babies were recruited for this study. The researchers randomly allocated the participants into three different feeding groups. One group was fed a formula with plant oils only, the other a formula containing a mixture of dairy fat and plant oils, and the third was fed a formula containing plant oils enriched with fatty acids.
They measured weight gain, head size, length, and fat composition after two months, and again after four months. These researchers did not record any significant differences in weight gain, fat mass, and head size across babies in the different feeding groups. Additionally, the researchers did not document significant differences in the effects of the three feeding strategies on the babies’ digestive systems, specifically regarding vomiting, abdominal pain, or stool consistency and color.
One important limitation of this study is that the researchers did not record information on ethnicity or race, therefore whether the benefits of this type of mixed formula are applicable to babies that are racially and ethnically diverse remains to be seen. It appears that a baby formula consisting of a mixture of plant oils and dairy does not negatively affect babies’ digestive systems and leads to normal growth among healthy babies.
Written by Melissa Booker
Reference:Gianni, M. L., Roggero, P., Baudry, C., Fressange-Mazda, C., le Ruyet, P., & Mosca, F. (2018). No effect of adding dairy lipids or long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids on formula tolerance and growth in full term infants: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Pediatrics, 18(1), 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-018-0985-2