Different Growth Patterns in Cow-Based Vs. Hydrolyzed Protein Formula

It is known that different types of infant formulas have different compositions and flavors. Recent studies have also shown that when proteins are given in hydrolyzed forms, rather than intact, they tend to be absorbed better in the gut and provide better satiety to the infant. This study investigated whether the feeding behaviors and growth patterns are different in different types of formula-fed infants. The results showed that the effect of the formulas varied. It was observed that babies fed on cow’s milk formula had an accelerated weight gain, while those who were fed formula that had hydrolyzed protein gained weight in a more normal manner.

The foods that are given to babies early in life may influence their health in later life and may put them at risk of disease. Studies have shown that babies who gain weight rapidly during the first year of their lives have an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, and eventually, heart disease later in life. Many of these studies compared formula-fed infants with breast-fed babies. Not all formulas are alike; nowadays, formulas are of various types. Some formulas are cow’s milk-based, some are soy-milk-based, and some contain hydrolyzed proteins. The formulas with hydrolyzed proteins are essentially those with broken-down proteins for easy digestion. These are suitable for babies who are unable to tolerate whole milk proteins. This study investigated the different growth and feeding patterns of babies fed on different types of formulas.

* For this study, 64 pairs of mothers and their babies were selected. These babies were recruited at the age of 2 weeks and followed up to 7.5 months of age.
* The babies were randomly assigned to two different groups, one in which cow-milk-based formula was given and the other in which hydrolyzed protein-based formula was given.
* During the study period, the infants were measured, weighed, and their feeding behavior was videotaped.

Key findings
* The results showed that compared to cow’s milk formula-fed babies, the weight gain and growth rate patterns in the hydrolyzed protein formula group was high. The velocity of weight gain in the hydrolyzed protein group was also slower compared to those fed on cow’s milk formula.
* Both the groups did not show any major differences in the growth of their length. This indicated that the formula affected weight gain more than the length of the baby.
* When assessing the level of satiation with either formula feeds, it was noted that hydrolyzed protein formula led to less consumption and easy satiation compared to cow’s milk-based formula. Mothers’ ratings of the acceptance of the formula by their babies were similar for all the studied age groups of the infants.

Next steps/Shortcomings
The authors warn that studies have shown that babies fed on hydrolyzed protein formula have higher blood levels of amino acids when compared to cow’s milk formula-fed or breast-fed babies. The implications of this finding are not yet known, but this may mean that the baby’s body is not utilizing the nutrients effectively for its growth. This may explain the slower growth of the baby. In addition, the authors suggest further studies to find the actual components present in cow’s milk formula that lead to overfeeding in babies.

This study shows that different compositions of cow’s milk formula and hydrolyzed protein-based formula may lead to different rates of weight gain in infants. Overfeeding and delayed satiation in infants is also seen with cow’s milk formula, compared to hydrolyzed protein formula. More studies are needed to explore the exact reasons behind this difference. The authors concluded that because early feeding behaviors may have a direct impact on obesity, diabetes, and other diseased states later in life, it is important to find the best formula for optimum growth and development of infants. This would warrant larger, longer, and more extensive studies.

For More Information:
Differential Growth Patterns Among Healthy Infants Fed Protein Hydrolysate or Cow-Milk Formulas
Publication Journal: Pediatrics, December 2010
By Julie Mennella, PhD; Alison Ventura, PhD; Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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