Infant obesity: Act now over formula protein guidelines, regulators urged

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Dr Jacques Bindels was speaking at our Food Vision Asia summit.
Dr Jacques Bindels was speaking at our Food Vision Asia summit.

Related tags Nutrition Breastfeeding Obesity

Regulators in Asia should not wait for new CODEX regulations for infant formula and act now to cut the amount of protein required in order to help reduce obesity, a leading expert in the region has argued.

Speaking at our Food Vision Asia summit in Singapore, Danone Nutricia’s Dr Jacques Bindels said there was significant evidence that excessive protein consumption was contributing to infant obesity, putting at risk the gains made in Asia Pacific around stunting and malnutrition.

“Upper middle income countries have more than halved their stunting rates in the last 15 years​, but there is still more to be done​,” he said.

“We have also seen reductions in lower middle income and lower income countries too. But we are now seeing a massive increase in obesity.”

He cited research showing that the required protein content for infants was far less than current guidelines stipulated.

“In some cases children are getting up to up to five times as much protein as they need as this is contributing to obesity, especially for children who are already a little bit chubby.”

Act now

CODEX is currently working on new guidelines for infant formula, but Bindels urged national regulators to act now.

“For example, in Indonesia has both the highest stunting and obesity which really highlights the double burden. We need regulators to act now, not wait for CODEX which in the best case scenario will report in 2020.”

Current CODEX regulations cover the age group from six to 36 months, the new ones are likely to be split between six to 12 months for follow-on formulas and the one to three years for young child formulas.

Turning his attention to new product development, Bindels said this was likely to target specific health needs, rather than featuring new ingredients which claimed to offer a silver bullet.

“We are seeing some developments around symbiotic combinations and synthetic human milk oligosaccharides…but big, meaningful innovations are rare and take long time to convince regulators.

“I think innovation is more likely to be driven by specific health benefit needs, rather than by unique ingredients. These will be for high risk groups or people with minor difficulties.”

Dr Bindels previously featured in our Nutrition Asia video series to discuss the state of infant nutrition in APAC. You can watch the video here.

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