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Protein, Peptides and Amino Acids: role in infant feeding

S. Nutten | Posted: Dec 05, 2016

What is the role of proteins, peptides and amino acids in infant feeding?

When deciding what infant formula to use, it is important to understand that different formulas offer different levels of protein hydrolyzation whereby proteins are broken down in size and sequence. There are two main levels of hydrolyzation used in infant forumulas: some extensively hydrolyze proteins and some only partially hydrolyze them. 

In extensively hydrolyzed formulas, proteins are cut into very small peptides and amino acids, which gives them low allergenic qualities – the peptides are too small to cross-link the antibodies which lead to allergic symptoms. This type of formula is best for infants that have been diagnosed with allergies. In partially hydrolyzed formulas, the proteins remain larger, and the sequence of the proteins is different.  

The larger peptides may induce symptoms in some infants which can be beneficial in educating the system towards immunological tolerance. This toleragenic quality may prevent allergies in the infant taking this type of formula. Recent studies into hydrolyzation have begun to show that is not only the size of peptides that are important in the allergenic and toleragenic formulas, but also the sequence of the peptides and amino acids.  

Formulas with the same size peptides, but in a different sequence, were found to have different effects on the immune system. Studies are also underway to determine if lipids, carbohydrates and probiotics in the formula could also have a beneficial effect on the immune response. Once the studies are complete, it is important that clinical trials are then pursued for these more sophisticated formulas, before they are recommended for human use.

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