While infant formula has a similar nutritional profile to breast milk, many nutrients in breast milk are more easily absorbed than those in infant formula. Furthermore, as the baby grows, the breast milk nutritional profile changes. However, nutrients required for growth must be included in the formula’s composition. The government has specified the amount of energy and the 33 critical components it delivers, based on the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s criteria (Codex).
Infant formula energy and essential components:
Energy: Around 250 – 315 kilojoules (KJ), fuel for babies. Carbohydrates, fat, and protein are the essential energy sources, with carbohydrates being the most abundant.
Protein: Around 1.9 grams (g) is necessary for human tissue maintenance and repair and the production of hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. It could come from either cow’s milk protein or soy protein.
Fat: A maximum of 975 micrograms (mg) per formula serving contains essential fatty acids for proper brain and eye development and fat-soluble vitamin absorption. Fat accumulation also helps to keep the body warm and protects the organs.
Carbohydrates: Getting enough carbs allows the body to use dietary fat and protein for other essential purposes including, regularly and effectively developing new tissues.
Minerals and vitamins: Micronutrients are required in minute amounts yet are critical for appropriate bodily function, development, and growth. Their requirements are substantial during infancy and early childhood.
Various other compounds: Choline, Myo-inositol, and L-carnitine are all vital nutrients.
Guidelines for Infant Formula
Water, carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals must be present in adequate levels in infant formulae. The guidelines are as follows:
The formula composition is carefully regulated, and the production process must adhere to government-issued rules.
For example, the effectiveness of all the primary components in infant formula has minimum and maximum range values.
Formula components should exhibit a track record of being safe for consumption.
Throughout the product’s shelf life, the essential quality of each nutrient must be retained.
Only L amino acid variants are allowed to supply, whereas they do not permit D form due to the possibility of D-lactic acidosis production.
Due to fructose sensitivity, they should avoid fructose.
The use of hydrogenated fats and oils is also prohibited.
Formula products manufactured with ionizing radiation usage are illegal as they may cause the product to deteriorate.
The caloric content should be no less than 65 kilocalories (kcal) per 100 milliliters (mL) and no more than 75kcal per 100mL.
Furthermore, medical and nutritional studies must be used to inform product reformulation.
Classes of Infant Formula
Infant formulas have three categories: Cow-milk-based formulas, soy-based formulas, and hydrolyzed formulas. They differ in vitamin ratio, mineral content, calories, flavor, digestion, and price. Infant formulas are available to fulfill a wide range of requirements. After complete hydrolysis, milk alternatives are amino acids rich in nature or comprise whey or casein proteins. Rice-based formulas are also available.
Cow milk-based formula: Most infant formulae are prepared from bovine milk. Bovine milk has higher fat, mineral, and protein levels than human breast milk. As a result, cow milk must involve skimming and diluting to enhance the mimic of the human breast milk content. Most healthy full-term infants can consume milk-based formula with additional nutrients. One of the first things introduced to an infant’s diet is cow’s milk, a common triggering factor of food allergies. Clinical responses usually arise after nursing has ended and cow’s milk is introduced to the diet.
Soy milk-based formula: Infants with galactosemia or inability to digest lactose can benefit from soy protein formulas. Infants under the age of six months who have a food allergy should not be given soy products. There is a restriction for soy-based formula use due to phytoestrogens presence, as it is harmful to the newborn, but this is still debatable.
Hypoallergenic formula: Infants with poor tolerance toward cow milk or soy-based formulas should use hydrolysate formulas. Extensively hydrolyzed formulas are a good option for babies having protein allergies.
Amino acid-based formula: Infants with severe cow milk allergies will experience reactions or refuse to eat acceptable amounts of severely hydrolyzed formula. Another option is amino acid formulation. It provides protein as a free amino acid that means the absence of peptides.
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