Good nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring optimal growth and overall wellbeing in infants and toddlers. Complex lipids naturally occurring in milk, such as phospholipids, show promise in enhancing brain development, cognitive functions, immune responses and intestinal health.
Breast milk is rich in these vital components and is the best food for babies*. When breastfeeding is not an option, cow’s milk provides another natural source of complex lipids. A growing number of food manufacturers are looking to harness the benefits of phospholipids when creating dietary products for infants.
We Valio experts have years of experience studying the health benefits of different dietary fats. In this blog, I break down in detail why phospholipids are so important in early childhood.
While the importance of phospholipids has been known since the 1900s, scientific evidence of their benefits during the early years of life has been growing steadily. Research has revealed that infants fed on breast milk, which naturally contains phospholipids, have better cognitive function than formula-fed infants.
We at Valio are working towards bringing formula milk one step closer to breast milk — by increasing the phospholipid content in infant formula.
The milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) in cow’s milk is a good natural source of complex lipids. In fact, the phospholipid composition of cow’s milk MFGM is closer to that of breast milk when compared to plant sources of phospholipids such as soy.
MFGM has been the focus of intensive research during the last decade. Apart from phospholipids, MFGM also contains other complex lipids such as gangliosides and sphingomyelins as well as bioactive proteins. All of these may play an important role in infant development.
Studies with MFGM as a source of complex lipids and bioactive proteins have reported a wide range of benefits in infants.
Enhanced cognitive development:
Research has indicated that infants who were supplemented with an MFGM-rich formula until six months of age, had similar cognitive development as breastfed infants at 12 months. Both groups differed significantly from the group that received standard formula.
Studies have shown that MFGM supplementation in infants and children can offer immune function benefits that include lower prevalence of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, fewer days of fever, less use of antipyretics and fewer instances of acute otitis media.
Better behavioural regulation:
There is evidence that MFGM may have benefits on a toddler’s behaviour. Parents of preschool children reported better behavioural and emotional regulation after a few months of MFGM supplementation, according to the results of a placebo-controlled, double-blind study.
Studies have also indicated that children who had been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) showed signs of improved symptoms and short-term memory after phospholipid supplementation.
Milk is a treasure chest of bioactive compounds. The latest advances in research could throw light on more novel fat compounds in milk in the future.
We help baby food manufacturers meet existing regulations and local nutritional recommendations for infants with premium quality dairy ingredients. Our experts at Valio also offer solutions to produce balanced nutrition for infants and children by providing efficient and accurate recipe design and calculation.
*Using infant formulas is second to breastfeeding, a fact supported by WHO. Babies should be breastfed exclusively for 6 months, with continued breastfeeding after introduction of complementary food. A healthcare professional should be consulted before introducing infant formula or complementary food to a child’s diet.
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