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Similar Infant Tolerance Seen In Standard, Hypoallergenic Formulas

June 23, 2009

New research finds that healthy infants tolerate standard formula just as well as the hypoallergenic kind.

The study compared the tolerance of 335 healthy infants to standard cow’s milk-derived formula and partially hydrolyzed formula, which contains cow’s milk proteins that are broken down and therefore less likely to induce an allergic response.

The so-called hydrolyzed formulas are typically recommended for infants who are not breast-fed and have heightened risk of allergies, including those with a strong family history of allergic conditions.

The infants who took part in the study were full-term and without a family history of milk allergies.  Their parents were randomly assigned to use either the standard formula or the partially hydrolyzed formula for 60 days.

Dr. Carol Lynn Berseth and colleagues at Mead Johnson Nutrition, an Evansville, Indiana-based company that markets various infant formulas, led the study.

They found that the rate of formula intolerance, which includes symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting, was comparable in both groups of infants.

Of the infants drinking the standard formula, slightly more than 12 percent were removed from study after doctors diagnosed them with intolerance.  Meanwhile, nearly 14 percent of the infants on the hypoallergenic formula were removed from the study due to doctor-diagnosed intolerance.

However, the researchers did observe a difference in doctors’ and parents’ perceptions of what defined formula intolerance, with parents being more likely than doctors to believe their baby was having digestive problems.

Berseth’s team said the discrepancies are in keeping with previous research showing that some parents mistake normal infant behavior such as fussiness, spitting up and excessive crying as an indication of formula intolerance.

The scientists referenced a previous study in which 47 percent of parents had switched their infant’s formula based on their own opinions, rather than guidance from a health professional.

In the current study, Berseth and her colleagues concluded that healthy infants have comparable tolerance for standard and hypoallergenic formulas.

The results suggest that most parents may not need to purchase expensive anti-allergy formulas as their first choice.

However, the researchers wrote that the hypoallergenic formula might still be best for babies at increased risk of allergies.

The study was published online in the Nutrition Journal.

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