Issue 33

You are what you eat

Special whey proteins in infant formula may reduce the risk of obesity in later life

Adult obesity is one of the major epidemics of our time – and nowhere more so than in the US, where government agencies are now urging the food industry to take responsibility for this unfortunate trend.

In a proposal published in May, an interagency working group encourages food manufacturers in the US to avoid marketing foods with a negative impact on health and weight to children up to the age of 17. 

BabyInfant formula manufacturers can also make a difference. As recent studies suggest, the root of the obesity problem could stem back to nutrition in very early childhood. High quality proteins, such as Lacprodan® Alpha-10 and Alpha-20, may play a role in reducing the obesity risk.

Lowering protein intake
Study findings show that formula-fed infants gain weight significantly faster than breast-fed infants after three months of age. A key reason for this is that formula-fed infants have a 50-80% higher protein intake – an intake suspected to be behind the “metabolic programming” that predisposes individuals to obesity. 

High protein intake is also associated with other detrimental effects on infant health. For these reasons, researchers, policy-makers and manufacturers have, for some time, sought new ways to reduce the protein level in infant formula. 

Ensuring essential amino acids
One of the main challenges is the essential amino acids that the proteins must provide. By lowering the protein concentration of infant formula, manufacturers must ensure that the protein ingredients they use have the required quality and essential amino acid profile. From whey protein, Arla Foods Ingredients produces two alpha-lactalbumin products – Lacprodan® Alpha-10 and Alpha-20 – that satisfy these requirements to the full.

The major protein in human milk, alpha-lactalbumin is exceptionally high in essential amino acids, providing infant formula manufacturers with the perfect opportunity to reduce the protein content of their products. Infant health benefits from a lower protein diet in several ways. Not least is the reduced risk of obesity in adulthood.

Arla Foods Ingredients recommends human breast milk as the best infant nutrition during the first months of life.