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STUDY: Mothers Milk Best
JOURNAL: Pediatrics 2003;111:1017-1023.
AUTHORS: Dr. Koo
ABSTRACT: Use of palm oil and its more liquid fraction, palm olein, to supplement infant formula may adversely affect skeletal development.
COMMENTARY: Optimization of bone mass can begin during infancy with appropriate nutritional intake," but "infant formulas with similar contents can have different biological outcomes, depending on the ingredients added.
Dr. Koo of Wayne State University, Detroit, and colleagues point out that palm oil and olein "are used in some infant formula fat blends to match the fatty acid profile of human milk." Nevertheless, there is evidence that such additives lower calcium and fat absorption.
To investigate, the researchers conducted a double-blind study of 128 infants who were randomized to receive cow milk-based formulas with or without palm olein. The palm olein-containing formula was Enfamil with iron (Bristol Myers); the palm olein-free was Similac with iron (Abbott Laboratories).
Measurements taken at baseline (2 weeks of age) and at 3 and 6 months showed no significant differences between groups in factors such as weight and formula intake. However, infants fed the palm-containing formula showed significantly lower bone mineral content and bone mineral density at 3 and 6 months.
Matching the fatty acid profile of human milk by using palm olein, the researchers conclude, "may result in an unintended depression of bone mass accretion and may potentially be detrimental to optimal bone health."