Lactose intolerance ‘trend’ now affects babies, critics warn

Lactose intolerance ‘trend’ now affects babies: Sugary, dairy-free infant formula recipes triple in UK in a decade

  • Newborns drank nearly 11 million liters of expensive formula in England in 2018
  • The figure was 2.8 times more than the amount prescribed to minors in 2007
  • dr. Robert Boyle claimed the numbers suggest the formulas are overdiagnosed

The “dairy-free” trend that has been popularized by millennials in recent years is now affecting babies, experts warn.

There has been a huge spike in the number of infants being prescribed formula formulas, which are often much more sugary than milk-based products.

Experts said the problem is that far more children are being diagnosed with milk allergies than would be expected.

They warned that the increase in the use of special formulas could promote obesity and tooth decay in young children.

Researchers from Imperial College London analyzed the prescriptions of specialized infant formulas in England, Norway and Australia.

Rates in England are 12 times higher than what would be expected for the number of children with milk allergies, they found.

Prescribed amounts of specialized formulas for infants tripled in England between 2007 and 2018, with similar trends in other regions of the UK, they found.

Co-author Dr Robert Boyle, of Imperial, claimed the rise may have been caused by “marketing in the formula industry.”

There has been a huge spike in the number of infants prescribed a special, dairy-free formula that often contains much more sugar than milk-based products (file image)

Researchers from Imperial College London found that newborns in England drank nearly 11 million liters of expensive formula in 2018.

Researchers from Imperial College London found that newborns in England drank nearly 11 million liters of expensive formula in 2018.


Mothers are urged to breastfeed, if possible, to give their babies the maximum dose of nutrients.

Bottle feeding can be costly for many parents struggling with the financial burden of a new baby.

Formula milk also has different levels of nutrients, determined by the supplier.

And it is often not easy for babies to digest.

However, babies who consume both breast milk and formula may not be getting enough vitamin D and still need drops or mothers who take supplements.

Many women who incorrectly breastfeed believe that it gives babies all the nutrients they need, said Dr. Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston.

Quantities more than doubled in Norway between 2009 and 2020 and tripled in Australia between 2001-2012.

dr. Boyle warned that the trend could increase childhood obesity.

More than a quarter of children under the age of five are overweight or obese in the UK – this number rising to four in ten 11 year olds. About one in four five-year-olds already has cavities.

Cow’s milk allergy is estimated to affect up to 1% of children under the age of two.

Specialized products have been developed as an alternative to formulas containing milk powder.

The study, published in May in Clinical and Experimental Allergy, tracked national prescription data in England from 1991 to 2020 for babies in all three countries.

Researchers modeled the expected prescription rate based on the assumption that one percent of all minors would need the formula each year.

This was compared to the actual recipe numbers for three different types of formulas: soy, extensively hydrolyzed formula, and amino acid formula.

The total number of prescriptions increased by a factor of 2.8 in England from 2007 to 2018 – with similar trends in other regions of the UK.

Amino acid formulas — which are of particular concern because of the higher sugar levels — were up 6.7 percent in the country.

The number of prescription specialist formulas increased by 2.2 times between 2009 and 2020 in Norway and 3.2 times between 2001 and 2012 in Australia.

dr. Boyle said: ‘These data indicate high levels of milk allergy overdiagnosis and mark a major shift in the diets of young children.

‘Unnecessary specialized bottle feeding can make an important contribution to the consumption of free sugars in young children.’

dr. Boyle claimed the overdiagnosis “appears to have been fueled by marketing activities in the formula industry.”

Breast milk contains nutrients that protect babies from infections – and even SIDS. It also reduces their risk of heart disease later in life.

dr. Boyle said: ‘While specialized formula is fairly well tolerated by most infants and supports feeding and growth, there are significant differences from standard formula or breast milk.

‘In specialty formula products, the lactose naturally present in breast or cow’s milk is partially or completely replaced by alternative carbohydrate sources, often free sugars such as glucose or sucrose.

‘High intake of free sugars is an important risk factor for obesity and tooth decay and a major public health problem.

“It is therefore conceivable that unnecessary use of specialized formulas could have important public health consequences that have not been studied so far.”


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