Infant Formula Manufacturers Refuse To Remove GMO And New Research Now Links Formula To Chronic Disease
Nestle and Mead Johnson Nutrition recently dismissed calls to remove genetically-modified organisms (GMO) from their infant formula products in the US and now evidence is coming forth on long-term risks related to infant formulations. Epidemiological research has indicated a relationship between infant formula feeding and increased risk of chronic diseases later in life including obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Researchers stated that the comprehensive metabolic implications of formula vs breast-feeding play a role in long-term health risks.
Nestle and Mead Johnson Nutrition recently dismissed calls to remove genetically-modified organisms (GMO) from their infant formula products in the US -- citing the approved use of GMOs by several national and global regulatory bodies.
According to anti-GMO campaign group, GMO Inside, these companies "likely" use GMO ingredients such as soy, corn and sugar in their popular infant formula products.
In the letter, the campaign group urged Nestle USA's Paul Bulcke, Abbott Laboratories' Miles White, and Mead Johnson Nutrition's R Kasper Jakobsen to "take a proactive stand and announce a phase out of all GMOs in your infant formulas in 2013."
"Similac, Enfamil, and Gerber Good Start -- which combined account for more than 90% of all infant formula sales in the US -- are exposing American and Canadian babies to potentially grave health risks by using genetically modified ingredients," said a statement accompanying the letter.
GMO Inside issued its call to Nestle USA, Mead Johnson Nutrition and Abbott Laboratories just days after Abbott Laboratories shareholders voted not to remove GMOs from the company's Similac infant formula range.
Study Shows Infant Formula Linked To Chronic Disease
The new data, published in the Journal of Proteome Research, suggests that babied fed on formula, rather than breast milk, experience metabolic stress that play a role in long-recognised links between formula-feeding and an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other conditions in adult life.
Led by Dr Carolyn Slupsky from the University of California, Davis, USA, the research team used an infant rhesus monkey model to comprehensively compare the metabolic implications of formula- and breast-feeding practices by measuring urinary and blood metabolites in addition to sampling cytokines and fecal microbial profiles.
"We show that formula-fed infants are larger than their breast-fed counterparts and have a different gut microbiome that includes higher levels of bacteria from the Ruminococcus genus and lower levels of bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus," explained Slupsky and her colleagues - adding that the formula-fed infants also had higher serum insulin coupled with higher amino acid levels, while amino acid degradation products were higher in breast-fed infants.
Human milk oligosaccharides, or HMO, produce short-chain fatty acids that feed a beneficial microbial population in the infant gut. Not only that, the bacterial composition adjusts as the baby grows older and its needs change.
Earlier studies have shown that breast milk lowers the incidence of diarrhea, influenza and respiratory infections during infancy, while protecting against the later development of allergies, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses. As scientists have learned more about the role intestinal flora plays in health, they have gained appreciation for how an infant's early diet can affect this beneficial microbial universe.
The report by San Diego bioengineers was based on in vitro tests comparing the digestion of fresh human breast milk and nine different infant formulas. It was online in the journal Pediatric Research.
"Our findings support the contention that infant feeding practice profoundly influences metabolism in developing infants and may be the link between early feeding and the development of metabolic disease later in life," Dr Carolyn Slupsky stated.
Slupsky and her colleagues used the rhesus monkey model to compare the comprehensive metabolic implications of formula- and breast-feeding practices using NMR spectroscopy to characterize metabolite fingerprints from urine and serum, in combination with anthropometric measurements, fecal microbial profiling, and cytokine measurements.
They found that the infant monkeys fed formula were larger, and had different microbiota make-up to their counterparts fed breast milk.
Indeed, they noted that the formula fed monkeys had higher levels of bacteria from the Ruminococcus genus and lower levels of bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus in their gut.
Additionally, the formula-fed infants were found to have higher serum insulin, coupled with higher amino acid levels - while amino acid degradation products were higher in breast-fed infants.
Slupsky and her team also observed increases in serum and urine galactose and urine galactitol in the second month of life in formula-fed infants - along with higher levels of immune factors including TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, IL-1-beta, IL-4, and other cytokines and growth factors at week 4.
"These results demonstrate that metabolic and gut microbiome development of formula-fed infants is different from breast-fed infants and that the choice of infant feeding may hold future health consequences," said Slumpsky and her colleagues.
More than 35 percent of formula-fed babies in the United States consume GMO soy formula. Babies on soy formula appear to grow with many problems associated with the gastrointestinal tract. These formulas contain very high concentrations of genistein, from 32 to 45 milligrams, which is higher than the amount found to affect menstrual cycles in women. GMO Soy formulas also contain other soy isoflavones that likely affect genistein's actions in the intestine.
Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.