Early childhood nutrition has a significant impact on children’s health and can be regarded as one of the most critical factors determining the quality of life. Breastfeeding is the most beneficial from this point of view. However, a large number of infants in the first weeks and months of life, for one reason or another, receive baby formula in addition to breast milk or are on complete formula feeding.
Most manufacturers in infant formulas use whey protein and casein as a source of protein and lactose as carbohydrates. Cow’s milk is not used as a source of fat because it contains three times less essential linoleic acid than breast milk and has a significantly different triglyceride structure. Saturated fats in cow’s milk fat can increase the risk of diabetes in the later years of a child’s life. This has led to the use of vegetable oils in milk formulas. Manufacturers try to bring the quantitative and qualitative composition of fatty acids and their proportions as close as possible to the composition and proportions in breast milk and use mixtures of different oils for this purpose.
The use of palm oil in food production, including infant formula, is one of the hot topics today since the food that ends up on our table every day contains it in its composition. The properties of palm oil have not been thoroughly studied. And now there is a lot of disagreement among experts about the harm or benefit of this product.
Palm oil: Why is it used in baby formula?
This vegetable oil is obtained from the oil palm, namely from its fleshy fruit. Its orange color and specific smell distinguish it. It contains a lot of valuable components, like vitamins A and E and saturated fatty acids.
In addition, the oil contains coenzyme Q10, which is an antioxidant. However, palm oil has high melting temperatures, so it may not completely dissolve in the human body. In addition, some parents have noted that babies eating foods with palm oil have begun to suffer from constipation and intestinal colic. Finally, according to some experts, the acid in palm oil binds to calcium, which is then eliminated from the body.
The main reason for using palm oil is the desire to bring the composition of infant formulas closer to breast milk. The fact is that the fats in breast milk are one-quarter palmitic acid, and palm oil is its main source. Fats provide 30% to 50% of a baby’s daily energy needs and have a very important building function. They are involved in the formation of the brain, the visual organs, and the synthesis of hormones. The use of palm oil mixed with other fats such as soybean and rapeseed oil or fish oil provides a fatty acid ratio similar to that of breast milk. However, according to the available scientific data, palmitic acid (26% of total fatty acids) has the highest percentage in breast milk fat.
The most common myths about palm oil
Here are the most common myths about the main ingredient in baby food, palm oil:
- Palm oil is harmful to health. It is worth noting that this ingredient began to be added to various dishes about five thousand years ago. Much later began to use olive oil and sunflower oil.
- The human body does not assimilate palm oil. That is absolutely not true: the degree of digestibility of the product is more than 95 percent. Dairy fats have a digestibility of 90.7 percent.
- Palm oil is often used in the food industry because of its low cost. In the case of infant formula, this is not true. According to experts, with a relatively low cost of raw materials ( in baby formula is used palmitic acid from palm oil) and transportation costs, the product is on the same price threshold as sunflower oils (sunflower oil has no palmitic acid).
In addition, purified palmitic acid used in infant formulas is the constituent and similar part of palm oil present in breast milk. Therefore, the use of palmitic acid, which is derived from palm oil, is more of a necessity to match the composition of breast milk rather than harm the body. In baby formula production, highly purified palm oil is controlled at all stages, from harvesting at the plantation through purification, processing, and transportation to the final moment of use.
Suppose parents want to go deeper into the topic of its effect on the baby’s body. In that case, it is important to know that palmitic acid is a basic ingredient in almost any baby formula. Newborns need to receive the maximum amount of nutrients and probiotics. Baby food can meet the needs of infants as much as possible, even with palm oil in its composition. After all, palm oil is a vegetable fat, which allows making the fat content of the formula as close as possible to the fat content of breast milk. And breast milk is the best baby food option available.
Quality baby food: How to make a decision?
The problem with the use of low-quality and unprocessed palm oil in the production of various foods does exist. But this applies only to untested and unreliable manufacturers.
It should also be noted that there are few scientific and professional publications on this topic, and the evidence for and against it is often contradictory. In most cases, the palm oil content of products is regulated and reflected in the composition indicated on labels. The task of each adult is to read the composition of the infant formula carefully and make the right choice on their own because their baby’s health depends on it.
To date, official data from the WHO suggest that foods containing vegetable and palm oils are not dangerous to health.
Unresolved and controversial questions about the benefits or harms of palm oil are probably also related to the quality of palm oil used in the food industry. And also the lack of reliable and controlled studies. If all the above made you to go with palm-oil free baby formula, there are plenty of good and high-quality options out there, click here to find out more information.
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