Nestlé files patent on age-tailored infant formulas to curb later-life obesity, disease risk

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Tom Merton
© Getty Images / Tom Merton
Nestlé has developed six age-tailored infant formulas to prevent sub-optimal body composition in early-life that aim to reduce obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorder risk later in life.

Writing in its global patent,​ Nestlé detailed six infant formula compositions targeting different life stages, ranging from one-month to three-years, that were nutritionally tailored to “reflect the evolving changes of breast milk”​ over the age of an infant or young child. Specifically, energy density, fat and protein content were adapted accordingly.

Over-feeding and sub-optimal development

While all infant nutrition products had to adhere to strict World Health Organization (WHO) and Codex Alimentarius Commission guidelines, Nestlé said there was a tendency among caregivers to overfeed infants and young children.

In addition, follow-on formulas designed for young children aged 4-12 months, tended to cite dosages and caloric densities that did not take into consideration complementary food eaten by infants and young children, it said.

“It is believed that the complementary food is a nutritional factor that has been, so far, under-accounted for in the typical nutritional schemes,” ​Nestlé wrote in its patent filing.

All of this impacted body composition – an “important parameter” ​linked to various sub-optimal statuses later in life, Nestlé said, including over-weight obesity, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, insulin resistance and the like.

“Hence, there is a need to provide (synthetic) nutritional compositions to infants and young children which prevent sub-optimal body composition, especially in terms of fat-mass and/or fat-free mass,” ​it said.

“...There is a need to promote a fat mass and/or fat-free mass which is comparable to infants (of similar genetic and/or ethnic origins) who are exclusively breast-fed, breast-fed in a large proportion, or breast-fed during an extended period of time (six months or more).”

Long-term health considerations

Nestlé said experiments in animals had shown modification of energy intake in the first weeks of life had “a lifelong effect on weight gain, even if normal energy intake was restored afterwards”.

“...If it is known that conventional synthetic infant formulas are able to induce a rapid growth of infants, it is also known that a rapid growth of infants and young children increases a risk of obesity in later childhood or adulthood,” ​it added.

A number of other studies also indicated nutrition in early postnatal life could impact long-term appetite regulation, it said.

There therefore had to be a nutritional system that enabled the “convenient, safe and accurate delivery of the most adequate nutrition all along the first months or year of the life of a baby”,​ and these systems had to be “easily complied with”​ by caregivers to reduce the risk of overfeeding, Nestlé wrote.

“There is a need to provide a more balanced diet to infants and young children,” ​and importantly one that considered the introduction of complementary foods, it said.

Age-tailored formulas: energy density and fats

Innovation © Getty Images tatianazaets
© Getty Images / tatianazaets

Nestlé outlined six different formulas targeting specific age windows. The first composition was for the first month of life; the second for the second month; the third for infants aged 3-6 months; the fourth for infants aged 7-12 months; the fifth for young children aged 13-24 months; and the sixth for young children aged 25-36 months.

All compositions followed global guidelines and were preferably powder or concentrate form to be reconstituted or diluted with water and each formula was made with fat, protein and/or carbohydrate, along with a range of vitamins, minerals and pre- and probiotics.

Nestlé detailed that, importantly, energy density (in kcal per 100ml) was highest in the composition targeting one-month old infants “to provide sufficient energy for growth” ​and decreased until the third composition targeting infants aged 3-6 months. After this, energy density either plateaued or was reduced “in order to take into account the complementary food supplied to babies”.

Fats and lipids across the compositions were all were selected from milk or vegetables to provide a source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs), although the first three compositions should contain a mixture of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) and compositions thereafter, just DHA, Nestlé said.

Levels of these fats were also specifically tailored, with fat content in the third composition seeing a “progressive decrease”​ from the first and second formulas “to avoid overfeeding fat nutrients”. ​Fats were then increased in the fourth composition “to take into account the increasing needs of the baby at that age” ​and then leveled out or lowered for the fifth.

Importantly, fat content in the sixth formula, for young children aged 25-36 months, was “drastically” ​reduced to levels lower than all earlier compositions to take into account complementary foods consumed by the baby at that age.

“In this way, the most adequate fat content is delivered over a longer period of time,” ​which was associated with health benefits over time, Nestlé wrote.

Age-tailored formulas: carbs and protein

Carbohydrates were also tailored accordingly across the six formulations. In the first and second compositions, lactose between 10-11g per 100 kcal was preferred, and for the third and fourth compositions a mix of lactose and maltodextrin was preferred.

Carbohydrate levels were designed to increase progressively through the age-tailored compositions, Nestlé said. “It is believed that the relative high carbohydrate content in the fourth of fifth composition are best suited to deliver the form of 'fast' energy needed at this age, without promoting the fat accumulation.”

For proteins, Nestlé said the first four compositions should contain 100% whey proteins, ideally partially hydrolyzed to provide easier digestibility and lower allergic potential. The fifth and sixth could then contain a mixture of intact whey and casein.

Protein levels, it said, aimed to “mimic the evolution of human breast milk”,​ providing a high density for the first month when growth was fastest, then decreasing or remaining stable until the composition targeting infants aged six months. After this, protein content remained constant and increased for the sixth formula.

“It is believed that a control of the protein density of the compositions helps maintaining the infant in normal growth curves and has [an] effect later in life for the reduction of obesity and excess weight.”

Importantly, Nestlé said it had to be understood that its compositions worked in synergy when used sequentially; when used independently, they would not achieve beneficial effects to the same extent.

Childhood obesity in LATAM

By 2030, an estimated 50% of males and 60% of females in Latin America will be overweight or obese, according to the Obese Society. And a report​ from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Pan American Health Organization (PAO) suggests obesity is most prevalent and on the rise in women and children. Currently, just over 7% of children under the age of five (around 4 million) are overweight in Latin America.

Source: WIPO International Patent No. 2019/092921
Filed: November 7, 2018. Published: May 16, 2019.
Title: “An Array of age-tailored nutritional formula for infants and young children for use in the prevention of sub-optimal body composition”
Author: Societe des Produits Nestlé S.A – J. Yan, L. Cosoniu and P. Steenhout

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