New Research: Lactose-reduced Infant Formula Can be Associated with Higher Risk for Obesity

A new study by the PHFE WIC Research Team suggests that lactose-reduced infant formulas could have a correlation with a higher risk for childhood obesity. Infants who were given lactose-reduced formulas had a 10% higher risk for obesity at age 2 than infants who drank lactose-based formulas.

Lactose-reduced formulas remove the lactose carbohydrate from cows’ milk and replace it with corn syrup solids. These formulas quickly raise blood sugar and may cause rapid weight gain.

Are Babies Lactose Intolerant?

Marketers encourage parents with babies who cry more frequently than others to buy lactose-reduced formula by using words like “sensitive” or “gentle”. Most full-term babies are born with lactase enzymes that help them digest the lactose found in breast milk and formula. Only a small percentage of babies are lactose intolerant, usually preterm infants who did not develop the enzyme. Lactose intolerance usually develops from ages 3 to 5.

Should I stop giving my baby lactose-reduced formula?

Not at all! If you’re currently giving your baby lactose-free or lactose-reduced formula and baby is doing well, continue to offer what works best for your baby. If you’re noticing that your baby is fussy and want to change formulas, speak to your medical provider before making the switch. There are several reasons why baby may be fussy such as overstimulation, growing pains, or being tired. Learning how to understand your baby’s behavior will help you identify what your baby might need.

Read the full study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition here.