According to a study, infants who were fed on cow’s milk formula gained weight more quickly, when compared to infants who were fed on protein hydrolysate formulas. Protein hydrolysate formulas, or hypoallergenic formulas, are meant for children who have problems digesting certain proteins. The proteins in this formula are broken down to make digestion easier for the infants.
This study compared the benefits of drinking cow’s milk formula with that of protein hydrolysate formula in 64 infants between 0.5-months-old and 7-months-old. All the infants were similar in weight and length at birth. Participants were divided into two groups and each group was randomly assigned to one of the formulas for an average of seven months. The length of feeding time was kept similar between the two groups of participants. Growth of the infants was measured once a month. Solid food was introduced to the infants at about the same time.
Within two months of starting the study, a small difference in weight gain was noticed between the two groups. The results showed that infants fed with cow’s milk formula gained weight rapidly while those in the protein hydrolysate formula gained weight at a normal pace. The weight-for length score was lower for the infants in the protein hydrolysate formula, when compared to the infants in the other group.
Researchers tried to explain the difference in the weight gain in the two groups with the help of different hypotheses. The difference in taste was one among them. Authors of the study felt that as protein hydrolysate formulas were disliked by the infants, they consumed less leading to a lower weight gain in that group. Julie Mennella, PhD, from the Philadelphia-based Monell Chemical Senses Center, a research institute dedicated to studying the chemistry behind taste and smell, feels that the higher protein content in protein hydrolysate formula may make the infants feel full quicker and hence they consumed less of the formula. Another hypothesis says that the different amino acids in the protein hydrolysate formula may play a role in absorption and metabolism. But all the hypotheses have to be confirmed by further studies.
Researchers also suggest that more studies are required to understand the long-term effects of hydrolyzed protein diets in humans. This is a relatively new addition in human food and is growing very popular. Understanding the long-term effects is very important as diet and nutrition can have serious consequences in the development of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.