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Is There Sugar in Baby Formula?

Should Baby Formulas Contain Sugar, and Which One?

Sugar is an essential component of baby formulas. However, not in the form of sucrose, glucose, or fructose, but lactose, a naturally occurring sugar in human milk. Lactose has a very slightly sweet taste, about eight to ten times less sweet than sucrose. Babies and toddlers produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose so that glucose and galactose can be absorbed in the small intestine. Later, many people lose the activity of this enzyme, hence the symptoms of lactose intolerance after consuming milk appear.

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Human milk contains a lot of lactose compared to the milk of cows and other mammals — about 7% and sometimes even more. So much sugar is necessary to meet the energy needs of a growing baby’s brain. Therefore, an additional portion of pure lactose is added to the modified milk so that the prepared mixture contains at least 7%. You can check the composition of HiPP Bio Combiotik 2.

Some babies have an above-average appetite, and regular formula is not enough for them. Such babies can be fed formulas with numbers corresponding to the age group and the R symbol. It means the addition of carbohydrates in the form of rice starch, which makes such milk thicker and more filling than the regular option. Such milk can be given to babies after the age of six months, therefore “R” milk is available only from number 2 and above. 

Oligosaccharides are an important component of baby formulas. Oligos in Greek means “several,” so oligosaccharides are molecules consisting of several to several dozen sugar molecules. Oligosaccharides play a role of a soluble dietary fiber supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Therefore, infant formulas are additionally enriched with this ingredient.

What about Glucose Syrup?

Glucose syrup is added to many products to sweeten, thicken, or increase their volume. It is a common filler because its production cost is much lower than that of sugar. However, frequent and excessive consumption of glucose syrup can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Still, there are some baby formulas whose basic ingredient is glucose syrup. You should avoid such products because they can harm your baby’s health.

Soy Lecithin in Baby Formulas

Soy lecithin is obtained from soybean oil by degumming. In baby formulas, it acts as a binding element for milk components. Lecithin helps lower cholesterol levels, positively affects the nervous and cardiovascular systems, supports memory, and prevents gallstone formation. The European Food Safety Authority recognizes soy lecithin as a non-toxic and non-cancerous product. Also, the Regulation of the European Union Commission on food additives allows the use of soy lecithin in food for infants and young children, indicating only quantitative restrictions.

Lecithin is considered safe, does not interact with drugs, and rarely causes side effects. Exceeding the daily recommended dose of lecithin may result in nausea, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. The amount of soy lecithin in the baby formula should not lead to such symptoms.

Baby Formulas with Maltodextrin

Maltodextrin is a neutral-tasting white powder made from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat. Despite its plant origin, it is a highly processed product. It is mainly used as a filler or thickener. The US Food and Drug Administration approves maltodextrin as a safe food additive. However, it has a high glycemic index, meaning it can cause blood sugar levels to spike, especially if consumed in large amounts. People with diabetes and insulin resistance should avoid it. In addition, research has shown that maltodextrin can alter the composition of the gut microbiome and increase susceptibility to disease. It can inhibit the growth of probiotics in the digestive system, which are important for the functioning of the immune system.