Actually these fatty acids are nothing like what is in breast milk and pose a number of known and unknown risks to the infants who consume them. The DHA is extracted from fermented microalgae and the ARA is extracted from soil fungus. The breast does not use either of these items to manufacture its fatty acids, and these sources are new to the food chain. Each of the processed oils has its own fatty acid composition, adding a number of fatty acids to formula that already are contained in the plant oils mixed into the base formula. Human fatty acids are structurally different from manufactured ones from plant sources. Human fatty acids interact with each other in a special matrix. Just because they perform as they do in human milk does not mean they will perform at all in an artificial construct. One study has started to question if the large fat supplementation of formula is contributing to the obesity epidemic (Massiera F. Arachidonic acid and prostacyclin signaling promote adipose tissue development: a human health concern. J Lipid Research 2002; published on line ahead of print November 4, 2002).
Side effects have been reported in animal studies of the DHA and ARA, such as; oily soft stool (steatorrhea) and oily hair coat in rat studies. In four week exposures, rat pups had higher liver weights, in three month exposures they showed elevated serum alkaline phosphatase levels, and undeveloped renal papilla. Fungal food sources have the potential of acting as opportunistic pathogens in immunocompromised individuals. An extensive review of this topic was done published in the Journal of Nutrition, November 1998 Supplement; Vol 128, Number 11S. It concluded that there was not enough evidence to support the addition of these fatty acids to formula.
Varying or randomly adding fatty acids to formula does not always translate into optimal delivery of these fatty acids to the infant. These fatty acids were not approved by the FDA for use. They were simply allowed onto the market with the stipulation of post market surveillance. This means give the formula to as many babies as possible and see what happens. Since the clinical trials (experiments on babies) were done on small numbers, this allows the formula companies to have access to the entire population of babies born in the US every year, 4 million. The formulas are under study by the Institute of Medicine for safety. This represents an enormous uncontrolled experiment that bypasses informed consent and is staunchly defended by health care professionals who are wedded to the infant formula industry.
NABA has received many, many reports of babies being fed Lipil and experiencing watery, explosive diarrhea. This needs to be reported to the manufacturer and the FDA as a side effect or adverse event of this formula. This is so similar to the selling of olestra (the stuff in potato chips that prevents a person from absorbing the fat which caused painful cramping and diarrhea in many adults) that it is a scary comparison. We do not know if babies lose fat, fat soluble vitamins or any other nutrients through the stool when they consume this formula. As a matter of fact, we know very little about this formula.
Formula salesmen have walked onto hospital maternity units and removed all of the standard formula, lying that it is no longer being produced. This formula is more expensive than regular formula so the companies have profited greatly by making sure that the lower priced formula is not made available. How many more babies have to be made sick in order for the health care system and government regulatory agencies to pay attention to something put on the market to make money. The only thing these additives do is help a company capture a larger share of the formula market.
The latest issue of INFACT Canada’s newsletter carries a great tidbit of information from a few years ago when Martek Biosciences was recommended as a strong stock investment: ” Infant formula is currently a commodity market, with all products being almost identical and marketers competing intensely to differentiate their product. Even if Formulaid (the name of the DHA/ARA fatty acid combination) has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as closest to human milk.” No mention is made at all about health consequences because it is of no importance. Promoting formula in this manner is false and misleading advertising and is against the law.
Health care providers who buy into the hype about this formula or Similac Advance have not done their homework. Maybe we need a conference on this topic to help people understand formulas and how to remove the marketing barrier to breastfeeding that they present.
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