May 25th, 2012 by Digestive Detective
INGREDIENTS: Corn Syrup Solids, Soy Protein Isolate, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Sugar, Soy Oil. Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? Any guesses as to what this fine list of ingredients is referring to? Cookies maybe? Perhaps some kind of candy bar? Guess again. These are the beginning ingredients of infant formula.
My guess (and hope) is that if you read these ingredients on the label of a food you were about to purchase for yourself at the supermarket, you'd toss the box right back up onto the shelf. So why is it that we would choose to feed this concoction to newborns?
Sadly, we've been sold a bill of goods by the manufacturers of infant formula that these ingredients are not only not harmful to our children, but are actually the ideal "food" for developing babies. Let's take a closer look at these ingredients and examine the true nature of their potential effect on the body:
A processed sweetener derived from corn (an already nutrient-void grain), corn syrup solids break down into simple sugars. The dangers of sweeteners and sugar are already well-documented, with the American Academy of Pediatrics citing the negative impact of sugar sweetened beverages on children's health and the alarming increase in rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. In addition, health issues such as dental caries and some mood/behavioral problems have been implicated in response to a high intake of refined sugars.
Soy Protein Isolate & Soy Oil
Soy foods have the highest levels of enzyme blocking, mineral binding phytates of any legume and very commonly cause digestive troubles. Phytates (or phytic acid) are natural compounds found in beans, grains and seeds, and have been found to block the absorption of zinc, calcium, selenium and iron. Soy also contains other food toxins namely high levels of phytoestrogens - plant-based estrogenic compounds that are proven endocrine disruptors. Chris Kresser outlines the variety of harmful impacts that soy has on his website:
- Soy contains trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function;
- Soy contains phytic acid, which reduces absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc;
- Soy increases our requirement for vitamin D, which 50% of American are already deficient in;
- Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
- Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12;
- Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines;
- Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods to mask soy’s unpleasant taste; and,
- Soy can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems, especially in women.
Kresser goes into more detail and cites a study that exhibited the estrogenic, "contraceptive effect" of soy intake:
"In 1992, the Swiss Health Service estimated that women consuming the equivalent of two cups of soy milk per day provides the estrogenic equivalent of one birth control pill. That means women eating cereal with soy milk and drinking a soy latte each day are effectively getting the same estrogen effect as if they were taking a birth control pill.
This effect is even more dramatic in infants fed soy formula. Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day."
Do we really want to start our children's lives off by feeding them hormone disruptors, enzyme/mineral blocking substances and carcinogens?
High Oleic Safflower Oil
Safflower and other industrial seed oils are high in omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory while their counterpart omega-3 fats are more anti-inflammatory. The ideal ratio of fats in our diets is a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3; unfortunately, today's estimates of the ratio range from an average of 10:1 to 20:1, with a ratio as high as 25:1 in some individuals. Safflower oil itself has one of the highest percentages of omega-6 fat with a content of 75%. The health consequence is that elevated omega-6 intake is associated with an increase in all inflammatory diseases.
DISCLAIMER: I do not have children or breasts.
I certainly can understand the challenges mothers face when nursing: the potentially uncomfortable situation of trying to feed or pump in public places; planning activities around when and where to nurse, and all the towels, blankets, bottles, and other fun breastfeeding gear to tow from place to place. Even more so, I realize the frustration that many women must face when they want to nurse but simply are unable to do so.
Whether out of necessity or convenience, I can understand that many women seek an alternative to breastfeeding and therefore reach for formula; so the question is what healthier alternatives are out there. The best alternative to mother's milk is to make homemade baby formula. While more time intensive, the ability to control the ingredients, avoid the above mentioned anti-nutrients, and ensure a high-quality food source for your infant is worth the extra effort.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has an entire section of their website devoted to recipes for homemade formula as well as other tips and resources for new moms wanting to optimize baby's nutritional needs. I highly encourage every parent to check it out - particularly if you plan on not breastfeeding (ideal) and are looking to provide the greatest sustenance to your newly developing child.
The other resource I highly recommend for all soon-to-be or new parents is The Healthy Baby Code from integrative health practitioner Chris Kresser. Chris' six-module course is extensive in both breadth and depth of information with a variety of recommendations backed by a combination of scientific data and practices of traditional cultures.