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Anxious parents misdiagnose milk formula intolerance

Some parents may be unnecessarily switching infant milk formulas for their healthy infants. A study published in BioMed Central's open access Nutrition Journal, found that many parents misinterpret common baby behaviors as milk intolerance and needlessly switch formulas without consulting a health professional.

The team of researchers, led by Dr. Carol Lynn Berseth of Mead Johnson Nutrition, Indiana, USA, found that up to half of formula-fed infants experience a formula change during the first six months of life.

The randomized study, carried out in 335 healthy term infants, was designed to test the hypothesis that there is no advantage in choosing a partially hydrolyzed protein formula as a first-choice for most healthy infants. The study demonstrated no difference in infant tolerance of two cow milk formulas -- intact vs. partially hydrolyzed cow milk protein -- over a 60-day feeding trial.

The study confirms previous reports of unnecessary formula changes in healthy infants. While regurgitation, crying, fussiness, and colic can be signs of intolerances, similar episodes are also normal during early infancy. But anxious parents may mistake these normal episodes as formula intolerance.

Berseth said, "in a healthy population, this study demonstrated no added benefit of a partially hydrolyzed cow milk formula over a standard intact cow milk protein formula". She speculated that a partially hydrolyzed protein formula may be appropriate for a targeted group of infants rather than as a first-choice formula.

1. Tolerance of a standard intact protein formula versus a partially hydrolyzed formula in healthy, term infants
Carol Lynn Berseth, Susan Hazels Mitmesser, Ekhard E Ziegler, John D Marunycz and Jon Vanderhoof

Nutrition Journal (in press)

2. Nutrition Journal is an open access, peer-reviewed, online journal that considers manuscripts within the field of human nutrition. Animal studies are not published.

3. BioMed Central ( is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Science+Business Media, a leading global publisher in the STM sector.

Charlotte Webber | EurekAlert!
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