‘Breast milk-like’ formula may help babies sleep more and cry less, suggests study

By Tim Cutcliffe

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock/ com c
© iStock/ com c

Related tags Fatty acid Milk

Infants given formula milk containing high levels of SN-2 palmitate, sleep more and cry less than those given standard formula, reveals a study in Clinics in Mother and Child Health.

The study of healthy Chinese infants was conducted by a multi-centre research team in China, in collaboration with Advanced Lipids AB, a joint venture between AAK and Enzymotec.

Advanced Lipids is the manufacturer of INFAT, a proprietary infant formula containing prebiotics and triglycerides of palmitic acid, esterified at ‘position-2’ (known as SN2- or beta-palmitate).

Babies fed the SN-2 palmitate-rich formula (INFAT) showed similar crying and sleeping behaviours to breast-fed infants.

Crying episodes for both groups were fewer and shorter than in babies fed standard formula.  

The INFAT-fed infants also slept longer than the standard-formula-fed control group. 

“Our study indicates that high beta-palmitate (SN2-palmitate) formula affects infant crying and sleep patterns during the first weeks of life. High SN2-palmitate reduced crying duration, primarily during the evening hours, and improved sleep duration,”​ concluded lead author Dr Fabiana Bar-Yoseph, director of Research and Development, Infant Nutrition at Enzymotec.

The key difference between INFAT and the control formula is that it contains 43% SN-2 palmitate rather than 13%. This is designed to replicate the lipid structure of human milk. Researchers hypothesise that the similar lipid structure of INFAT to breast milk may be responsible for the effects on infant comfort.  

“Breast-feeding will always be the gold standard. However, by mimicking the fatty acid structure of breast milk, SN-2 helps us offer many of the same benefits in formula,” ​commented Dr Sigalit Zchut, clinical marketing manager and technical director at Advanced Lipids.

Lipid Structure

Replication of the composition of human milk is currently the subject of much interest from infant formula manufacturers. Attempts at mimicking breast milk are aimed at achieving the complex biological positive effects on infants provided by maternal milk.

Human milk contains a high level of palmitic acid triglycerides which are esterified at ‘position 2’ (the beta position or SN2-palmitate). Previous research has suggested that increasing the level of SN-2 palmitate may improve fatty acid metabolism, increase calcium absorption, enhance bone matrix quality and stool consistency, and may positively affect gut microbiome development.

Earlier research also found that SN2-palmitate may achieve these benefits through better absorption and hence improved digestion. Thus, unlike formulae containing predominantly SN1- and SN3-palmitate, the SN2-rich product minimises the formation of calcium soaps, which are poorly absorbed by the infant.

Although the researchers believe that better digestion and absorption may be at least partly responsible for the improved crying and sleep patterns, they acknowledge that the exact mechanism is not fully understood and requires further research.

Nevertheless, findings from this study appear to reinforce the benefits of SN-2 palmitate.

This research adds to the growing body of clinical evidence for the many advantages of SN-2 palmitate”, ​conclude the authors.

Source: Clinics in Mother and Child Health

Published online: doi: 10.4172/2090-7214.1000263

“SN2-Palmitate Improves Crying and Sleep in Infants Fed Formula with Prebiotics: A Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial”

Fabiana Bar-Yoseph, Yael Lifshitz et al

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