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U.S. Purchases of Specialized Infant Formula Exceed Estimated Need

5.5 percent of formula purchased from 2017 to 2019 was hypoallergenic; 59 percent of formula purchased was lactose-reduced

MONDAY, Oct. 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) — U.S. purchases of hypoallergenic or lactose-reduced infant formula exceed estimates of medical need, according to a study published online Sept. 21 in Clinical & Experimental Allergy.

Alexander J. Strzalkowski, M.D., from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, and colleagues assessed powdered infant formula purchase data from all major physical stores in the United States (2017 to 2019) to assess the proportion of formula purchased that is hypoallergenic or lactose-reduced formula. The analysis included purchases of 216 million kg of formula powder (equivalent to 1.65 billion liters).

The researchers found that soy protein formula represented 5.1 percent of formula purchased. Overall carbohydrate content included 52.7 percent lactose, 42.3 percent glucose polymers, and 5.0 percent sucrose, with 23.7 percent of formula purchased including sucrose as a carbohydrate. Lactose-reduced formula represented 59.0 percent of all formula purchased. Even among “standard” formula (intact protein, nonthickened, cow’s milk formula), 32.3 percent was lactose-reduced. The proportion of hypoallergenic formula purchased significantly exceeded the prevalence of cow’s milk protein allergy and increased during the study period (from 4.9 to 7.6 percent of all formula sold in 2019).

“U.S. infants are exposed to unnecessarily high levels of nonlactose carbohydrates and hypoallergenic formula, and this may represent a significant nutritional health risk,” the authors write.

One study author owns Feed Baby Love, which provides educational resources to parents and providers regarding infant feeding.

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