Scientists claim the ingredient is able to deliver key nutrients that premature babies need in high quantities, but aren’t available in large enough amounts in their mothers’ milk.
The substance, which is derived from hazelnut oil, would also be able to boost nutrition intake for babies who are bottle-fed for a variety of other reasons, say the researchers.
Casimir Akoh and colleagues explain that human milk is the ‘gold standard’ for designing infant formulas. Mothers naturally provide omega-3 docosahexaenoic fatty acid (DHA) and omega 6 arachidonic (ARA) fatty acid to infants during the last three months of pregnancy. Studies have linked these to the development of the brain and other organs in the womb.
The fatty acids are also present in human milk, but premature babies do not get full exposure to them in the uterus because they are born too soon. And their mothers’ milk does not yet contain high enough levels for them when they are born, the researchers claim.
Currently DHA and ARA in the form of triacylglycerols from algae are added to some formula milks. But concerns have been raised about the digestibility of these algae-derived fatty acids, which are not precisely identical to those in human milk.
This inspired Akoh and his team to produce a new designer fat from hazelnut oil that more closely mimics the quantities of DHA and ARA in human milk. They have extensively analysed the substance and have concluded that the new DHA and ARA source is suitable for the supplementation of infant formula milks.
Their report has been published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The authors acknowledge funding from the Camlica Kultur ve Yardim Vafki in Turkey, Istanbul Technical University Scientific Research Projects Department and the University of Georgia.