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A Study Found Most Infant Formula Health Claims Unfounded

A Study Found Most Infant Formula Health Claims Unfounded


A study revealed the majority of infant formula health claims to be unfounded

A study published on Thursday indicated that the great majority of health claims made in baby formula advertisements around the world are not supported by solid scientific data. This led researchers to advocate for straightforward packaging of breast milk replacements.

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The report was published one week after a group of physicians and scientists called for a crackdown on the $55 billion formula industry for “predatory” marketing that utilizes the concerns of new parents to urge them not to breastfeed. Most people concur that nursing is extremely beneficial to a baby’s health.

According to the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that a baby should only be fed breast milk for the first six months of life. However, according to the WHO, less than half of all infants worldwide adhere to this recommendation.

Daniel Munblit, an honorary senior lecturer at Imperial College London and one of the study’s authors, stated that scientists were not on a “crusade” against infant formula. He stated that mothers who are unable or unwilling to breastfeed should still be able to use it.


“But, we strongly oppose misleading advertising for infant formula that is not supported by solid research,” Munblit explained.

Munblit and an international team of researchers examined the health claims made for 608 infant formula brands on the websites of manufacturers in 15 countries, including the United States, India, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria.


What people claim:

People typically claim that formula promotes brain development, strengthens the immune system, and promotes overall growth. The BMJ survey found that fifty percent of the products did not relate the purported health benefit to a specific ingredient. Three-quarters made no mention of scientific evidence to support their beliefs.

More than half of those who provided a scientific reference cited reviews, opinion pieces, or animal research. Just 14% of the listed products were evaluated in human clinical trials. According to the analysis, 90% of these trials showed a significant risk of bias, such as missing data or contradictory outcomes.

It was also stated that over 90 percent of clinical trials were written by individuals with ties to or financial support from the formula industry.

The majority of references were to polyunsaturated fatty acids:

They are present in breast milk and are believed to be crucial for brain development. According to a Cochrane systematic review, there is no evidence that adding the component to baby formula improves it in any way.

According to Munblit, the health claims were mostly used to sell premium formula products, which could be “distressing” for parents who are duped into believing that the substances are important but cannot afford them.

When asked what he believed should be done to solve the issue, Munblit was lucid. “Simple packaging,” he said.

The report follows the publication of a collection of studies in the Lancet journal last week that urged international leaders to end exploitative formula marketing.

Nigel Rollins, a WHO expert on newborn health and author of one of the Lancet publications, stated that busy parents “don’t have the time to carefully investigate claims” regarding infant formula.

Rollins said in a related BMJ editorial that the new study demonstrated that “governments and regulatory agencies must give the claims of formula milk products the time and consideration they merit”.

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