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Infant Milk
Infant Milk Formula

A report on the research that is currently being developed to include an ingredient in infant formula milks which may help protect against obesity.

A New Formula to Prevent Obesity?

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

This month a feature in the science journal Chemistry and Industry suggested that infant formula milks are currently being developed to include an ingredient that may help to protect against obesity and diabetes throughout life.

The magic ingredient is a hormone called leptin, which has an important role in controlling appetite and therefore our calorie intake.

Leptin binds to the satiety centre of the brain, letting the body know it’s had enough to eat by producing a sensation of satiety or fullness.

The idea of adding leptin to formula milk comes from the University of Buckingham, where researchers found rats that received leptin supplements at a young age were less likely to become obese or develop diabetes as adults.

Mike Cawthorne, who led the research says, “The supplemented milks are simply adding back something that was originally present: breast milk contains leptin and formula feeds don’t.”

Some obesity experts have criticised the idea of adding leptin to formula milks.

According to Dr Ian Campbell, honorary medical directior of the charity Weight Concern, says, “To date, leptin has proved to be a great disappointment. Most of us have plenty and true deficiencies are rare.” Commenting on the idea of adding leptin to baby milk, Dr Campbell says, “Without evidence that this works in humans, it is a pure flight of fancy that those consuming leptin from infancy will never get fat.”

WLR says:

It’s clear that a huge amount of extra research is needed before we can expect to see formula milks enriched with leptin on the supermarket shelves.

As is often the case in early stages of research, it’s impossible to extrapolate the findings from research in rats, and suggest that the same effects will occur in humans.

Just how this research can be tested in humans is also problematic – there are clearly ethical issues surrounding the testing of new ingredients on newborn babies.

It looks like a case of watching this space for several years yet!

Providing children with a balanced, healthy diet and encouraging them to be more active from an early age is a tried and tested way to help ensure they grow into healthy, fit, slim adults.

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