Infant formula intake and protein guidelines queried in Southeast Asia

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

The protein content regulations in infant formula may need revising in some countries. ©iStock
The protein content regulations in infant formula may need revising in some countries. ©iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

There is concern about the considerable variance in the recommended consumption levels of infant formula and follow-on formula in Asia and questions over the amount of protein they are required to contain, an international conference has heard.

Dr Jacques Bindels, from Danone Nutricia Research, said he couldn’t decide if the variability in recommended consumption levels was due to the differences in national diets or simply the differing opinions of policy-makers.

His presentation at Fi Asia in Jakarta highlighted the low recommended consumption level in Indonesia as a cause for concern, as well as the relatively high level of protein content such products have to contain in certain countries.

According to the national regulations, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand tend to have higher recommendations for milk intake, formula or otherwise, with around three servings a day suggested for ages 1-2, and two servings for ages 2-3 and over there years.

China and Hong Kong recommends slightly less consumption, with Australia and Indonesia coming towards the bottom of the list.

In the latter, just one serving a day is recommended at all age groups.

“As you can see there is quite variability and one might wonder if the diets are so different or the opinions of those making the rules are different – I can’t quite tell.”

He said there was a lot of evidence to show that there is a long list of “problem nutrients”​ for young children, such as a lack of folic acid, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins c and, and Iodine among others.

“So these need to be provided by formula, supplements or other functional foods,”​ he added

Bindels cited recent expert recommendations from Thailand for follow-up formula for children aged 12-36 months.

In the “Composition of Follow-Up Formula for Young Children Aged 12-36 Months: Recommendations of an International Expert Group Coordinated by the Nutrition Association of Thailand and the Early Nutrition Academy”,​ it was recommended that young children consume one to two cups, 200-400ml a day, providing an average daily consumption of 300 ml a day and 15% of total energy.

In Europe, the advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that 300ml to 500ml a day is acceptable, after the age of one.

Both of these recommend levels are higher than the current advice in Indonesia.

Obesity risk

Meanwhile, some Asian countries, Malaysia and Indonesia included, require infant and follow-on formulas to contain protein content higher than that proposed by the recent International expert recommendations.

“High protein can be high risk for obesity if the child is already little bit chubby at two or three years old,”​ said Bindels. “This is why the [International expert] study recommends lower protein.”

The study notes that: “A double-blind, randomized clinical trial conducted by the European Childhood Obesity Trial Study Group found that feeding infant formula and FUF with a lower protein content during the first year of life induces a marked health benefit in reducing BMI and obesity risk at schoolage, as compared to conventional formula with high protein contents​.”

He cited Malaysia as an example where protein intake among young children already exceeds the recommended daily amount, even before milk consumption is taken into consideration. This is “alarming”​ given the country’s current and predicted obesity rate, Bindels added.

There is a similar problem, albeit to a lesser extent, in Indonesia.

“Therefore they should consider looking at the regulations which recommend high protein [in formula],”​ he added.

- NutraIngredients and Nutraingredients-Asia is hosting an exclusive Infant Nutrition online event on October 18. You can register here

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