I have just picked up a Twitter link to an article about formula milk on the NutraIngredients.com site.
Research carried out in the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia addresses the problem of delivering sufficient quantities of the right essential fatty acids DHA and ARA for vital organ (especially brain) development to premature infants. Full term infants who are breast fed will get them from thier mothers’ milk but the these fats only appear in the mother’s breast milk in the last three months of pregnancy so will not yet have arrived in the milk of mothers whose babies are born prematurely.
Currently the formula milk for preterm infants is supplemented with DHA and ARA from algae, but there are concerns about the digestibility of these EFAs which although similar, are not identical to human milk. Hence the search for a closer match, which these researchers think they have now achieved using hazelnuts.
Very good as far as the EFAs go – but what if there is a history of nut allergy in the family? Even if there is no history of nut allergy but the infant’s family are atopic, might the hazelnut component sensitise the child to hazelnuts or all nuts? The nuts may have been broken down into fats and fatty acids but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is not just whole proteins that can trigger allergic reactions but different molecules within the proteins – see Dr Adriano Mari’s presentation at last years’ Allergy Research Foundation meeting.
This is not to say that hazelnut EFAs should not be used – if they deliver benefit to the majority of pre-term infants they most certainly should. But – and this is the big but – will the manufacturers have taken on board the possibility that they may present an allergy risk and will they therefore have taken care to highlight the presence of hazelnuts very clearly on the packs of formula and on all accompanying literature? I certainly hope so….