What is in formula?
Most infant formula comes from cow’s milk (the exception is soy formula), but a lot has to happen before it goes from the cow to the can and, ultimately, babies. The short, blunt version is that the manufacturing process literally takes cow’s milk apart and puts it back together again with some components left out and others added.
Cow’s milk is very high in saturated fat, which human babies have trouble digesting, and low in monounsaturates, the main fats in human milk. So the first step is to remove all the fat. The resulting skim milk is heated, then dehydrated if it’s going to be in powdered form. Then new fats, in the form of vegetable oil blends, are added along with proteins, milk sugar (lactose) and a long list of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are required by federal regulation to approximate their levels in breastmilk.
Cow’s milk has three times as much protein as breastmilk. Calves need this because they grow so quickly, but for human babies it would put too much of a load on the liver and kidneys. Cow’s milk also has a higher proportion of casein to whey — the two kinds of proteins in mammal milks — than breastmilk does. So formula manufacturers must reduce the overall amount of protein and add extra whey to mimic the protein balance found in breastmilk.
Other ingredients prevent the mixture from separating or going bad. Some formulas have thickeners, and specialized formulas for premature babies have enhanced levels of nutrients. Any newly developed formula must meet a number of safety and nutritional standards, including clinical evidence that it is nutritionally adequate to promote normal growth.
What’s not in formula?
Human milk is a complex substance which, even now, is not fully understood. The list of known breastmilk components not present in formula is too long to go into fully and includes enzymes, hormones, growth factors and substances that fight infection and help develop the immune system.
Simply put, human milk is alive, says James Friel, professor of human nutrition at the University of Manitoba. “Some components are biologically active. They play a role that goes far beyond nutrition,” he explains. “For example, if you put an oxidant stressor — something like cigarette smoke — in breastmilk, it resists the stressor, and breastmilk does this better than formula even though formula contains more antioxidants. That strikes me as odd and I wish I understood it better.” Friel thinks it might one day be possible to add biologically active material to formula, but doesn’t expect to see this any time soon.
One important biologically active component of human milk is a protein called secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), which has the ability to bind to foreign substances (including harmful bacteria) so they can be eliminated from the body. It lines the wall of the gut, which is one of the main entry points for infection. Colostrum, the thicker milk that a mother’s body produces in the first few days, is especially high in sIgA.
Formula contains these little fighters as well, although they’re less plentiful and they’re bovine (cow) immunglobulins which are programmed to recognize micro-organisms that cause disease in cattle rather than humans, and operate in the bloodstream rather than the gut. Bottle-fed babies still develop immune systems, obviously, but they miss out on some of the early and long-term protection provided by sIgA.
The most immediate threat from lack of sIgA is during the first weeks of life, when a baby’s gut is vulnerable to infection. Advances in hygiene and sanitation, plus ready access to treatment, have made life-threatening gastrointestinal infections rare in Canadian babies. But they still cause considerable illness and many infant deaths in the developing world, where powdered formula is sometimes mixed with contaminated water.
Another biological capability, present in breastmilk but not formula, is the ability to alter itself. Breastmilk changes, both as the baby grows and during each feeding. Foremilk, which is produced at the start of each feeding, is relatively low in fat. As the baby sucks, the level of fat rises, satisfying him and lulling him into that blissful state a nursing mom loves to see. The fat levels of human milk also change in the baby’s second six months, when his growth rate slows. In recent years new formulas, called follow-up formulas, have been designed to more closely match some of the nutritional needs of an older baby.
How close is formula to breastmilk?
Both are milks that can sustain fledgling human life, but the similarity ends there. Nutrients in a man-made substance do not work the same way as they do in a naturally occurring substance. As dietitian Cristine Bradley, senior manager of medical affairs for Indiana-based formula maker Mead Johnson, puts it: “Compositionally, I’d call it apples to apples but functionally, it’s apples to oranges in many ways.”
A couple of examples: Iron was added to formula in the 1980s. However, the iron in formula is not nearly as well absorbed as that in breastmilk, so formula must contain considerably more for a baby to get the same amount.
Another example is nucleotides, which are the building blocks of DNA and RNA and help strengthen the immune system. After they were added to formula in the ’90s, Bradley says, the expected immunity benefit was not borne out. “There was some excitement about this for a while, but after inconsistent research findings it was generally agreed that this was not as promising as we first thought.”
What are they doing to improve formula?
Although formula is still fundamentally different from human milk, several significant improvements have been made in the past 30 years, including fine-tuning to improve the balance of proteins and the blend of fats. Manufacturers have added new varieties, including lactose-free formulas, special formulas for premature and ill babies, and hydrolyzed formulas with predigested protein, for infants with digestion problems.
The most recent innovation is the addition of two long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid). Both play a key role in brain development and it has been theorized, though never proven, that the presence of DHA and ARA in breastmilk may explain why breastfed babies score higher than formula-fed babies on toddler mental development tests.
This past winter Canadian babies got their first taste of formula with DHA and ARA (made from algae and fungus, respectively). The question is, will these additives make formula-fed children smarter, as the “A+” in one product’s name implies?
Sheila Innis, a professor of paediatric nutrition at the University of British Columbia, says the clinical research is mixed. “I would be very cautious about making that statement for a healthy full-term baby. In one small study, 18-month-old babies fed formula with DHA and ARA scored higher as a group than babies fed standard formula, but four other larger studies showed no difference. The evidence is much clearer for premature babies, who are born without stores of these and other nutrients.”
What are the risks associated with formula?
There are risks associated with formula feeding. To help mitigate them, parents need to fully understand them.
Improper mixing: Formula should be mixed exactly according to directions. Some parents have made mistakes, sometimes because of literacy or language problems. Some have over-diluted powdered formula, which can lead to malnutrition, or failed to properly dilute concentrated liquid formula, sometimes in a misguided attempt to increase nutrients. The result can be dehydration and kidney problems.
Contamination: Formula manufacturers say their quality control and product safety are the tightest in the food industry. Still, any man-made food carries the risk of contamination. In recent years there have been several small, isolated outbreaks of serious illness and a few deaths (mostly premature babies or those with immune problems) caused by a bacterium called E. sakazakii which was found to have come from powdered formula. (The outbreaks prompted Health Canada to recommend liquid formula — which is less likely than powder to be contaminated — for bottle-fed babies who are immuno-compromised or in intensive care.)
The take-home message is that powdered infant formula is not a sterile product and must be handled and stored properly. Dawn Walker, a nurse and former executive director of the Canadian Institute of Child Health, says that one of the most common infant feeding questions she hears is, “Can I reheat formula?” “The answer is no,” Walker says. “Once formula has been warmed up for use, if you reheat it, bacteria growth increases exponentially. It’s very risky.”
Illness: Statistically, formula-fed babies are more likely to get colds, ear infections, milk allergies, diarrhea, urinary tract infections and bacterial meningitis. How much more likely? That’s hard to say. Obviously, few babies (formula fed or not) get meningitis, so the risk is very low to begin with. With more common illnesses like ear infections, other factors also increase the risk — such as whether mom smokes or the child is in group daycare. One large study of two- to seven-month-old babies found that the risk of ear infection increased with the proportion of formula in the child’s diet; those fed entirely on formula were twice as likely (13.2 percent) as those who breastfed exclusively (6.8 percent) to have had an ear infection in the past month.
Bottle-fed infants are also at greater risk for becoming overweight; they grow and gain weight more quickly and, on average, are less lean than breastfed babies. One large German study of five- and six-year-olds found a 4.5 percent rate of obesity among those who had been bottle-fed, compared with 2.8 percent for breastfed children. Since it’s mom or dad who decides how much goes in the bottle and when, a formula-fed baby may not learn to read his body’s signals as easily as one who nurses on demand. Stephanie Atkinson, professor of nutrition in paediatrics at McMaster University, comments, “I’m concerned that there may be some kind of metabolic programming going on that may explain the increased rates of obesity in formula-fed children.”
Another concern is that formula-fed children may face an increased risk for developing Type 1 diabetes. Some studies have found a higher incidence in children who were exclusively formula-fed or who were breastfed for less than three months. Other research has found that early exposure to cow’s milk increases the likelihood of developing a type of antibody that can be found in children with diabetes. No clear link has been established, but a major ten-year international study was launched in 2002 to compare the rates of Type 1 diabetes in babies fed standard formula versus those fed hydrolyzed formula.
When you add up all the risk factors, it sounds daunting. However, trying to predict the likelihood that any one child will get any one illness is impossible. Likewise, lower risk is no guarantee; some breastfed babies get ear infections and some bottle-fed babies don’t. And let’s face it: There are a lot of healthy adults walking around who were raised on formula.
If we look at formula as a medical intervention, a way to nourish a baby when breastmilk is not available, it stands up fairly well. The problem is that this substitute became a competitor. And formula simply can’t compete with human milk. Here’s how James Friel views it: “We’ve been making formula for over 100 years and I’ve spent 20 years of my life trying to make formula better. All the people I’ve dealt with in the industry are honest, hard-working and dedicated. In spite of that, we are still unable to make formula that comes very close to human milk and, for me, that’s a disappointment. We try to break human milk down into its components and put it back together again, but it really doesn’t work that way.”
Formula’s greatest achievement may be that, although it still doesn’t really compare to human milk, it has become a reasonably safe substitute that has improved over the years. Perhaps that is all it ever can be.
The FDA has found in tests of canned infant formula that the plastic linings of the cans are leeching Bisphenol A into the formula IN MUCH HIGHER LEVELS (according to EWG) THAN FOUND TO CAUSE SERIOUS ADVERSE AFFECTS IN ANIMAL TESTS.
There is a string of corruption following the use of this chemical…read on……AND PASS IT ON!!!!!!!
A lot of people ask me why on Earth I spend more money to buy natural and non-toxic cleaners. What’s the big deal? There are a few different reasons why I do what I do. The decision came to me when I had my first child. I didn’t feel right having anything in my home that said,”Contact Poison Control Center if…” It just wasn’t worth the risk for me when I knew that there were safer alternatives.
Today my 2yr old insisted on helping me clean our sliding glass doors. I had no problem letting her spray, wipe and touch our glass and surface cleaner. There was no concern on my part at all. Anyone with a small child can tell you how difficult house cleaning can be with someone right under your feet. When I sprayed the glass door and watched the excess spray float in her direction I never batted an eye. What a relief. I have too many more important things to think about than whether or not my glass cleaner is going to make my daughter break out in hives or cause her temporary blindness.
I personally recommend Seventh Generation Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner to anyone looking to make the switch to a healthier alternative. It works great! Even on glass and surfaces that has been exposed to smoke and/or dust for an extended period of time.
As time has progressed, I have created quite a collection of natural cleaners and come to realize that not only are they safer for ourselves and our families, but they are safer for our Earth as well. If every household in the U.S. replaced just one bottle of 32oz solvent-based glass and surface cleaner with solvent-free Seventh Generation Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner, we could prevent 11 million pounds of Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs) from being released into the environment.
For a list of Volatile Organic Chemical Contaminants visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/drinkingwater/vol_con.htm
If you are concerned about the increase in cost for making the switch, consider starting a local co-op with quality products for natural living (at wholesale pricing) at http://recipes.frontiercoop.com/
This company reveals the true toxicity levels and lists the potential
harm of your make-up, skin care, hair care, nail care, eye care,
dental and oral care, perfume/cologne.
Even if this doesn’t spark an interest in you check up on the products
that you use for your children if you have them (they are SO worth
About Skin Deep
Skin Deep was conceived and developed by the Environmental Working
Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization based in
Washington, D.C. focused on safeguarding public health and the
environment. Skin Deep is an online, brand-by-brand personal care
product safety guide with in-depth information on 14,835 products -
1,051 brands of lotion, lip balm, deodorant, sunscreen and other
popular products – and the 7,093 ingredients that form them. With its
core of 37 toxicity and regulatory databases, Skin Deep provides
safety ratings and brand-by-brand comparisons that can help consumers
choose safer products, and that can guide companies in plans for
Here’s a link to a WONDERFUL resource for healthy/homemade alternatives for your children!
“Our skin is by far the largest organ, and the cosmetic and personal-care product industry is doing it great harm with a number of common ingredients that are cancer-causing agents, or just plain dangerous, say an increasing number of researchers, group activists, and even the government itself.”1 Because the skin is permeable, such ingredients not only harm the skin itself, but can penetrate to cause internal damage as well.
“Every day we use products that we think are safe. We assume the product has been tested and any dangerous ingredients labeled. The truth is, products are not always safe and manufacturers don’t have to tell us so….2 An FDA document posted on the agency’s World Wide Web home page says, “a cosmetic manufacturer may use an ingredient or raw material and market the final product without government approval.”.
In 1938, the FDA granted self-regulation to the cosmetics industry — allowing the industry to determine what to put into products, regardless of what tests show. Most of the 25,000 chemicals used have not been tested for long-term toxic and systemic effects (affecting the entire body system). Many are outright toxins or contain toxic byproducts.
According to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, “….Even if the FDA suspects that serious adverse health effects are caused by a cosmetic product, they can’t require the manufacturer to provide test data to prove the product safety.”
During our daily personal care regimen, most of us have exposed ourselves to more than 200 different chemicals. A recent surge of media attention reveals new concern about detrimental ingredients that are affecting more than our physical health.
An article in a recent USA Weekend says: “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is increasing research of synthetic chemicals (pesticides, plastics, and industrial mutants) that may be juggling your hormone signals. After reviewing nearly 300 studies, the EPA concluded that ingredients in shampoos, dyes, and other everyday products….may be playing havoc with hormones that control reproduction and development.”.
How about so-called “natural” products? Since there are no regulations about what is “natural”, the term is often abused, and many such alternative have the same dangerous ingredients as the products they claim to replace. Consumers must be educated and aware. Of the hundreds of toxic chemicals used in personal and skin care products, we have chosen some of the “worst offenders” to describe. If you learn about even these few and start reading ingredient labels, you can avoid some of the most serious carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting chemicals. Please take action now. The health and well-being of your family depends on it!
What you put on your skin can go into your body to affect your health and sense of well-being—either negatively or positively. YOU CAN CHOOSE WHICH… if you know the facts (which the “cosmetic conspiracy” wants to hide from you). As your body’s biggest organ, your skin is your most important immune defense barrier as well as your largest organ for eliminating waste. Commercial products with harmful petroleum ingredients can plasticize and “constipate” your skin, making germs more likely to get in and toxins less likely to get out of your body. The result: Neither you nor your skin are as radiant and healthy as you could be!
Every day we use products that we think are safe; but the truth is that products are NOT always safe—and manufacturers don’t have to tell us so. Ever since 1938—when the FDA granted self-regulation to the cosmetics industry—such products can be marketed without government approval of ingredients, regardless of what tests show. Most of the 25,000 chemicals used have not been tested for long-term toxic effects. In a typical day, you might be exposed to over 200 different chemicals, many of which are suspected of causing cancer or juggling hormones. EPA tests conclude that ingredients in shampoos, dyes, and other personal care products “may be playing havoc with hormones that control reproduction and development.”
· Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40): a very drying and irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s moisture and natural immune barrier, making you more vulnerable to bacteria, molds and viruses. It is made from propylene, a petroleum derivative and is found in many skin and hair products, fragrance, antibacterial hand washes as well as shellac and antifreeze. It can act as a “carrier” accelerating the penetration of other harmful chemicals into your skin. May promote brown spots and premature aging of skin. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients says it may cause headaches, flushing, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting, narcosis, anesthesia, and coma. Fatal ingested dose is one ounce or less. Alternative: BGSE
· DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), & TEA (triethanolamine): hormone-disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. Already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects, but Americans may be exposed 10-20 times per day! Used to create “foam” in products like shampoo, shaving creams, and bubble bath. Dr. Samuel Epstein (Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Illinois) says that repeated skin applications… of DEA-based detergents resulted in a major increase in the incidence of liver and kidney cancer. The FDA’s John Bailey says this is especially important since “the risk equation changes significantly for children.” No alternative necessary.
· DMDM Hydantoin & Urea (Imidazolidinyl): just two of many preservatives that often release formaldehyde which may cause joint pain, skin reactions, allergies, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness, and loss of sleep. Exposure may also irritate the respiratory system, trigger heart palpitations or asthma, and aggravate coughs and colds. Other possible side effects include weakening the immune system and cancer. Alternative: Lonicera Japonica
· FD&C Color Pigments: synthetic colors made from coal tar, containing heavy metal salts that deposit toxins onto the skin, causing skin sensitivity and irritation. Absorption of certain colors can cause depletion of oxygen in the body and death. Animal studies have shown almost all of them to be carcinogenic. No alternative necessary
· Fragrances: mostly synthetic ingredients, often containing animal urine or feces! Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to four thousand separate ingredients, many toxic or carcinogenic. Symptoms reported to the FDA include headaches, dizziness, allergic rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and skin irritation. Clinical observation proves fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes. Alternatives: Aromatherapeutic, organic essential oils.
· Mineral Oil: petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin’s ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. Used in many products (baby oil is 100% mineral oil!) Alternatives: Moisture Magnets (Saccharide Isomerate) from beets; Ceramides, Jojoba and other vegetable oils, etc.
· Polyethylene glycol (PEG): potentially carcinogenic petroleum ingredient that can alter and reduce the skin’s natural moisture factor. This could increase the appearance of aging and leave you more vulnerable to bacteria. Used in cleansers to dissolve oil and grease. It adjusts the melting point and thickens products. Also used in caustic spray-on oven cleaners. One Alternative: Planteren TM (Decyl Glucoside)
· Propylene Glycol (PG) and Butylene Glycol: petroleum plastics which act as “surfactants” (wetting agents and solvents). They easily penetrate the skin and can weaken protein and cellular structure. Commonly used to make extracts from herbs. PG is strong enough to remove barnacles from boats! The EPA considers PG so toxic that it requires workers to wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles and to dispose of any PG solutions by burying in the ground. Because PG penetrates the skin so quickly, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities. But there isn’t even a warning label on products such as stick deodorants, where the concentration is greater than in most industrial applications. Alternatives: water extracted herbs, Essential Oils, etc.
· Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): detergents and surfactants that pose serious health threats. Used in car washes, garage floor cleaners and engine degreasers—and in 90% of personal-care products that foam. Animals exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation, and even death. Young eyes may not develop properly if exposed to SLS because proteins are dissolved. SLS may also damage the skin’s immune system by causing layers to separate and inflame. When combined with other chemicals, SLS can be transformed into nitrosamines, a potent class of carcinogens. Your body may retain the SLS for up to five days, during which time it may enter and maintain residual levels in the heart, liver, the lungs, and the brain. Alternative: Ammonium Cocoyl Isethionate.
· Triclosan: a synthetic “antibacterial” ingredient—with a chemical structure similar to Agent Orange! The EPA registers it as a pesticide, giving it high scores as a risk to both human health and the environment. It is classified as a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals suspected of causing cancer in humans. Its manufacturing process may produce dioxin, a powerful hormone-disrupting chemical with toxic effects measured in the parts per trillion; that is only one drop in 300 Olympic-size swimming pools! Hormone disruptors pose enormous long-term chronic health risks by interfering with the way hormones perform, such as changing genetic material, decreasing fertility and sexual function, and fostering birth defects. It can temporarily deactivate sensory nerve endings, so contact with it often causes little or no pain. Internally, it can lead to cold sweats, circulatory collapse, and convulsions. Stored in body fat, it can accumulate to toxic levels, damaging the liver, kidneys and lungs, and can causing paralysis, suppression of immune function, brain hemorrhages, and heart problems. Tufts University School of Medicine says that triclosan is capable of forcing the emergence of ‘super bugs’ that it cannot kill. Its widespread use in popular
antibacterial cleansers, toothpastes and household products may have nightmare implications for our future. Alternative: BGSE
Interested in a healthier lifestyle for you and your family and looking for support? Check out- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/healthy_parenting/
If you are local to Orlando- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Orlando-Healthy-Parenting/
If you are local to Pensacola-