The right mix for health and more performance
Over the past few decades, breakthroughs in the field of infant and pediatric nutrition have led to new insights about what babies need to grow up strong and healthy. As our scientific understanding of the composition of breast milk evolves, these findings open new possibilities for infant formula manufacturers to develop products that can better nourish babies.
For the health of the next generation, infant formula manufacturers have a responsibility to create products that address both the latest science and generational attitudes about parenting. Here are three advancements in technology and pediatric nutrition that are helping to create better baby formula ingredients.
1. Synthetically engineered human milk oligosaccharides
After lactose and fat, the third-most plentiful ingredient in breast milk a group of over 150 different sugar molecules. Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are not digestible by the infants themselves, but rather act as a prebiotic food source for beneficial bacteria that populate an infant’s gut. Studies have shown HMOs to play a number of beneficial roles in infant development, including protecting babies from pathogens, modulating cell growth, and reducing inflammation.
New techniques in bioengineering have made it possible to chemically synthesize more than 15 different HMOs for addition to infant formula. Via fermentation and enzymatic synthesis techniques, it has become increasingly feasible to foster precise and cost-effective yields of these beneficial components.
The mammary glands of breastfeeding mothers secrete fat droplets packaged in an intricately structured three-layer membrane known as a milk fat globule membrane (MFGM). This complex membrane structure contains a plethora of proteins, cholesterol, and phospholipids that are thought to aid in infant brain development and immune function.
Cow’s milk, from which most infant formulas are derived, also contains MFGM. But until recently, infant formula products have not included MFGM because pasteurization and high-shear homogenization destroy these structures. New microfiltration and supercritical fluid extraction methods have made it possible to isolate MFGM from unpasteurized cow’s milk and preserve it for use as an additive in infant formula.
Scientists warn that the growing prevalence of antibiotic use, c-section delivery, and formula feeding is leading to a “generational loss” of the critical gut bacteria B. infantis among infants in industrialized nations. Even for breastfed babies who were delivered vaginally, a growing number of new mothers no longer have any B. infantis to pass on to their infants.
Though recent studies have cast doubt on the long-term effectiveness of probiotic supplements for adults, separate findings suggest that early intervention with B. infantis supplements for infants can be highly effective in the life-long establishment a healthy gut microbiome. These findings have led to the development of specially designed probiotic additives for infant formula, as well as supplements that can be mixed with pumped breastmilk.
We now know more than ever about the nutritional needs of growing babies. But without advanced processing technology, expanding scientific knowledge can only go so far in improving products. High-performance, hygienic mixing equipment plays a key role in ensuring that powdered infant formulas live up to the science behind their development.
Learn more about the key role of industrial mixing technology in infant formula manufacturing in our latest Whitepaper: “Mixing the next generation of infant nutrition”