Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sugary Similac Organic infant formula

I received a comment from a reader which reminded me about the “read the labels” thing.
A few months ago I came across this article in the NY Times. I’m sure some parents out there will be interested to know and make their own choice. I used to buy this formula for my baby but switched to another brand since.

For an All-Organic Formula, Baby, That’s Sweet By JULIA MOSKIN
May 19, 2008

“…many American parents have rushed to embrace Similac Organic formula, even though it sells for as much as 30 percent more than regular Similac. In 2007, its first full year on sale, it captured 36 percent of the organic formula market, with sales of more than $10 million, according to Kalorama Information, a pharmaceutical-industry research firm. (Similac’s parent company, Abbott Laboratories, does not release sales figures for individual products.)

Parents may be buying it because they believe that organic is healthier, but babies may have a reason of their own for preferring Similac Organic: it is significantly sweeter than other formulas. It is the only major brand of organic formula that is sweetened with cane sugar, or sucrose, which is much sweeter than sugars used in other formulas.

No health problems in babies have been associated with Similac Organic. But to pediatricians, there are risks in giving babies cane sugar: Sucrose can harm tooth enamel faster than other sugars; once babies get used to its sweeter taste, they might resist less sweet formulas or solid foods; and some studies suggest that they might overeat, leading to rapid weight gain in the first year, which is often a statistical predictor of childhood obesity.

Asked about these concerns, Carolyn Valek, a spokeswoman for Abbott Nutrition, the division of Abbott Laboratories that makes Similac Organic, said that sucrose had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and was considered “safe and well established.” Ms. Valek said that Similac Organic had no more sweetener than other formulas and that prolonged contact with any kind of sugar could cause tooth decay.

In Europe, where sudden increases in childhood obesity are a pressing public health issue, sucrose-sweetened formulas will be banned by the end of 2009, except when ordered by a doctor for babies with severe allergies. The 27 countries of the European Union adopted the new rules according to the recommendations of the group’s Scientific Committee on Food, which found that sucrose provided no particular nutritional advantages, could, in rare cases, bring about a fatal metabolic disorder, and might lead to overfeeding.

The F.D.A., however, which regulates infant formula, does not specify which sugars can be used, as long as they are already classified as safe. Nor does it set the amount of sugar per serving, as it does for fats and proteins.
Still, a number of pediatricians said they were surprised by the choice of sucrose.

All infant formulas contain added sugars, which babies need to digest the proteins in cow’s milk or soy. Other organic formulas, like Earth’s Best and Parent’s Choice, use organic lactose as the added sugar. Organic lactose must be extracted from organic milk, the global supplies of which have been severely stretched in the last three years, driving up the price of the lactose.

“The parents in my practice who would use organic formula are the same parents who would be worried about giving sweets to their babies,” said Dr. Jatinder Bhatia, a member of the nutrition committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “That organic formula would be sweeter might not be a health risk, but it certainly isn’t what the parents have in mind.”

Many doctors have long believed that all sugars, from raw cane to highly processed high-fructose corn syrup, are nutritionally identical. But others disagree.

“Recent studies show that animals have a clear preference for sucrose over other sugars,” Dr. Araujo said. And eating sucrose, he said, generates future cravings for sucrose; other sugars tested, like fructose and glucose, do not have the same long-term effect.
However, Gary K. Beauchamp, director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit research institute, said there was no solid proof that early exposure to sweetness gave babies a greater taste for sugar later in life.

The overall question of whether sweeter foods are more appealing to babies has long since been resolved. “Babies love sweetness, and anyone selling a sweeter formula is going to have an advantage, because it would be harder to switch a baby to another formula once they get used to the taste,” said Dr. William J. Klish, director of the pediatric gastroenterology department at Baylor College of Medicine and a former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ nutrition committee.

The sweeter taste of Similac Organic was observed by a professional sensory-tasting panel, commissioned by The New York Times to do a blind tasting of eight nationally available formulas, soy and dairy, organic and not. Seven of the formulas were as sweet as unsweetened apple juice, said Gail Civille, the director of Sensory Spectrum, which performed the tests. Ms. Civille said Similac Organic was the sweetest, with “the sweetness of grape juice or Country Time lemonade."

Doctors say that parents need not worry about the precise composition of formula, because the product over all has been proved safe and effective. But many questioned Similac’s choice of cane sugar, which has been gradually disappearing from infant formula since the 1950s.

(To me the punch line of the whole article is in the paragraph below - N.)

“The entire enterprise of formula is the attempt is to make it as close as possible to human milk,” Dr. Beauchamp said. “Making sweeter formula so that babies like it more seems to me contrary to the ethos of organic food, as a doctor and as a grandfather.”

To read the whole article, click here.

I think it’s time to post about something that makes you and me happy regarding food (which is not a recipe), don’t you think?

Any suggestions for a topic?
Or any “guest post”?


Vered - MomGrind said...

It makes me really sad when something is marketed as healthy when in fact it's not.

Jim said...

"Doctors say that parents need not worry about the precise composition of formula, because the product over all has been proved safe and effective."

Things like this make me sad, too. Formula has been shown to scar the digestive trac, cause obesity, and it lacks so many of the benefits of breastmilk that doctors shouldn't be calling it "save and effective." Perhaps if the formula reps weren't so involved in the nutrition decisions at most hospitals, they woudn't think that!

bhavani said...

Food should be prepared with health in point of view; not taste in point of viewnewport driving school

Natasha Setil said...

I just found out about holle formula, what an wonderful and organic and natural product! In addition to even better, I found it for the best price there is in the usa myorganicco. com organic formula