Infant formula feeding is linked to increased risk of chronic diseases later in life including obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study published in the ACS' Journal of Proteome Research.
Past research had already indicated a link between formula-feeding and a higher risk for chronic diseases later in life. But there were gaps in determining the basis for that link. Carolyn Slupsky and colleagues at the University of California, set out to fill those gaps by investigating how diet impacted metabolic changes by comparing growth, gut microbes, and other metabolic profiles of formula fed and breast fed infant rhesus monkeys.
AdvertisementThe results revealed the key differences between formula-fed and breast-fed subjects.
The researchers found that formula-fed infants were larger than their breast-fed counterparts and had a different gut microbe that includes higher levels of bacteria from the Ruminococcus genus and lower levels of bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus. Interestingly, Ruminococcus bacteria are known to be pro-inflammatory whereas Lactobacillus bacteria are anti-inflammatory. This explained the differences in the immune function between formula fed and breast fed infants. Breast fed ones had better immune function which provided immediate protection against infection as compared with their formula fed counterparts who showed elevated inflammatory state in their first month.
They also found that despite the higher protein content of infant formula, protein metabolism was lower in formula fed infants, suggesting that formula fed infants have a reduced ability to metabolize amino acids as compared with their breast fed counterparts.
Again, higher levels of uric acid in the body combined with lower urinary pH (acidic) increase the risk for metabolic syndrome in adults. The researchers here noted that allantoin levels (derivative of uric acid) were higher in infant monkeys suggesting that formula fed infants had the higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome later in life than the breast fed ones.
'These results demonstrate that metabolic and gut microbiome development of formula-fed infants is different from breast-fed infants and that the choice of infant feeding may hold future health consequences,' said Slupsky.
The researchers also hinted that reducing the protein content of infant formula might be beneficial in reducing the metabolic stress in formula-fed infants.
'Our findings support the contention that infant feeding practice profoundly influences metabolism in developing infants and may be the link between early feeding and the development of metabolic disease later in life,' concluded the researchers of this study.