That got me to thinking: how many times have we heard of a new formula 'formula' that has been manufactured, only to hear them say that it is the new closest thing to breastmilk.
Which, in actuality, it is 2nd best (breast being best), but still completely misses the mark. As a result, a truer statement would be 'closest to breastmilk but still not even close'.
Now don't get me wrong, I am so glad that there is an alternative when it is needed... but again, just like in obstetrics, it is the overuse and misuse of a man-made invention that tries to improve upon nature and, ultimately does more harm than good that has me up in arms.
An example is DHA/ARA being added to formula to make it even closer to breastmilk than ever before. Now women who feel guilty because of the huge push for breastfeeding all across the U.S. and within health agencies can feel less guilty for choosing the bottle over the breast because it is even closer than ever before to breastmilk... Now it has DHA and ARA.
Martek Biosciences Corporation is the pharmacuetical company that has patented a process to create both DHA and ARA in the laboratory setting.
The problem is that the laboratory products are not the same as the naturally occurring products in human milk. In fact, the DHA that is added to formula is actually DHASCO (docosahexaenoic acid single cell oil), and the ARA is actually ARASCO (arachidonic acid single cell oil). They are structurally different from the DHA and ARA that a breastfeeding infant receives.
DHASCO is created from algae grown in tightly controlled fermentation conditions in a solution of glucose and yeast. Then the oil is extracted using hexame, a toxic petroleum by-product that has been associated with disorders of the central nervous system. The hexane is then removed. What remains is only about 40-50% DHA in a dilution of sunflower oil.
ARASCO is extracted from soil fungus using a similar process. According the Martek documents hexane is used in the processing of ARASCO as well. - Glenni Lorick, IBCLC
What does this mean for the formula that we are feeding our babies?
Well the formula companies are quick to tell you that, as stated before, this means that we are 'closer to breastmilk' than ever before, but studies are not conclusive that this synthetic DHA/ARA makes a lick of difference in neurodevelopment... In fact, it is such a new thing, and controlled research is not complete on it, I am not quite sure why someone would give their child something without knowing the long-term effects of it yet.
FDA views any evaluation of the safety of use of new food ingredients such as DHASCO and ARASCO as a time-dependent judgment that is based on general scientific knowledge as well as specific data and information about the ingredient. Therefore, scientific data that become available after specific products containing a new ingredient enter the market must be considered as a part of the totality of information about the ingredient. Pre-market clinical studies evaluating the effects of infant formulas containing DHASCO and ARASCO on physical growth and some aspects of development are short-term studies, while some studies suggest that feeding of infant formulas with oils containing DHA and ARA to infants may have long-term effects on growth and development. For all these reasons, manufacturers have been asked to closely monitor these new infant formulas in the marketplace. - Keep Kids Healthy LLC
Nevertheless, ongoing research fails to show a significant beneficial effect. In early documents marketing their DHASCO and ARASCO to the formula companies, they claimed that even if these additives didn't make a difference, they could be "widely incorporated into infant formulas, as a marketing tool...."- Quoted in International Baby Food Action Network (2004) Breaking the rules, stretching the rules 2004: evidence of violations of the international code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes and subsequent resolutions
How are babies reacting? There have been reports of babies being unable to tolerate formulas with these synthetic additives to them, the most common complaint is diarrhea and even dehydration in some cases.
INFACT set out a report on this information:
Common ingredient in infant formula was found to be linked to diarrhea, severe dehydration and seizures in babies, according to complaints submitted to the FDA.
A shocking report has been released on the adverse health effects of fatty acids found in infant formulas. The Cornucopia Institute, a US-based corporate watchdog group, presented their findings on the fatty acids DHA and ARA, which are now commonly added to formula.
The report is based on a Freedom of Information Act request that the Cornucopia Institute filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the result of which was the uncovering of 98 reports filed by parents and physicians detailing incidences when babies had reacted adversely to formula containing DHA/ARA. The reported incidences range from cases of vomiting and diarrhea that stopped when babies switched to non-DHA/ARA formula to babies being treated in intensive care units for severe dehydration and seizures.
The FDA has never been convinced of the safety of DHA/ARA additives, according to the report. In its initial analysis of the additives, the FDA stated it had reached no determination on their safety status. The administration also noted that some studies had reported unexpected deaths among infants who had been fed with DHA/ARA formula. Despite its reservations, inexplicably the FDA did not withhold approval for the additives.
INFACT Canada has long questioned the use of DHA and ARA (also marketed as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) in infant formula. All major formula companies have added the fatty acids to their products in recent years, claiming that they aid in brain and eye development. However most test results have found the additives have negligible effects on infant development. But because DHA and ARA are found naturally in breastmilk, formula companies market DHA/ARA formula as ‘closer to breastmilk.’
Martek Biosciences Corporation, the company that supplies almost all formula companies with DHA/ARA, has admitted that the purpose of the additives is not to encourage healthy development, but to be used as a marketing tool. In its promotional material to encourage investment, Martek stated:
‘Infant formula is currently a commodity market, with all products being almost identical and marketers competing intensely to differentiate their product. Even if [DHA/ARA] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk.”
While DHA and ARA are found naturally in breast milk, the idea that Martek’s manufactured acids make formula closer to breast milk is ridiculous. Martek produces DHA and ARA from fermented algae and fungus, and uses hexane (a neurotoxin) in the manufacturing process. Simply adding these synthetic substances to formula cannot make artificial baby milk behave like breast milk, which is a complex, living substance that provides babies with the best possible nutrition and immunological protection.
Regular infant formula puts babies’ health at risk, but now infants are being harmed for the sake of a marketing tool. This is an egregious case of formula companies putting profit margins above infant health. In light of this report, it is imperative that all parents be made aware of the potential risks of feeding their babies formula with DHA/ARA. The products should be pulled from the market until their safety can be properly assessed by independent investigations.
Babies should not have to get sick just because companies want to raise their sales figures.
Unfortunately, though this information is readily available to anyone who actually seeks it, the women who need to know it most will probably never hear it.. the formula companies, of course, won't offer this information, and (love mine) pediatricians by-and-large won't offer this information either because of marketing and promotions set forth by these same companies soliticiting to medical offices.
Oh that women would, majority, breast feed their babies. Oh that we, as parents, would be given all of the information so that we could make true and informed choices for our health and that of our children. Oh that it would not be about the profit margins of big companies and more about the long-term health of human beings.... In a perfect world, eh?