What’s In Your Baby’s Formula? Part 2: Micronutrients | Plum Organics

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BABY’S FIRST YEAR
What’s In Your Baby’s Formula? Part 2: Micronutrients

What’s In Your Baby’s Formula? Part 2: Micronutrients

A closer look at vitamins, minerals and other nutrients

By Risa Schulman, PhD, Wellness Advisory Panel member for Plum For parents that use infant formula, the list of ingredients on the label can look a bit daunting. Despite the length of the ingredient list and a few words that might be hard to pronounce, a majority of them are ones you probably recognize – the carbohydrates, fats and proteins that come from cow’s milk and plant-based oils that we covered in Part 1 of this series. So, what other ingredients make up the rest of the list? Those ingredients at the end of the label are all the micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid) that support baby’s development. Those extra big words for the littlest of humans can sound scary, so let’s break it down a bit. Vitamins help develop and protect baby’s systems  As “micro” nutrients, vitamins are only needed in small amounts, and yet are essential for helping baby grow and thrive. Unfortunately, babies (like their parents) can’t make vitamins on their own so they must come from breast milk, formula, or a combination of the two. To ensure baby is getting the right vitamins at the right levels, the ingredients in infant formula are tightly regulated by the FDA. Let’s dig into some of the most important vitamins and talk about what they do for baby.

  • Vitamin A: Helps promote vision and supports the developing immune system.
  • B vitamins: Are responsible for transforming food into energy. They also help babies to make DNA, which they are doing at a rapid rate!
  • Vitamin C: Acts as an antioxidant protecting baby’s cells from damage, while also supporting growth and repair of body tissues.
  • Vitamin D: Works to support strong bones by helping baby absorb calcium, and is also important in helping nerves carry messages from the brain to other parts of the body.
  • Vitamin E: Helps keep blood flowing through vessels properly, and supports the developing immune system.
  • Vitamin K: Plays a role in proper blood clotting and is also known to help build healthy bones and muscles.
Minerals build baby’s healthy bones and blood Minerals are also needed by the body for overall healthy growth and development. Unlike vitamins, which are organic compounds found primarily in plants and animals, minerals are inorganic compounds found in soil and water. Just like vitamins, there is a long list of required minerals in infant formula. Here, we’ll focus on the ones you might hear about the most:
  • Calcium: The most abundant mineral in the body that baby uses to grow strong bones - not to mention those little teeth that will be coming in sooner than you think!
  • Iron: An important mineral that baby uses for making the components of blood (hemoglobin and myoglobin), which transport oxygen in the blood to cells and muscles. Little ones are born with an iron reserve that can last about six months (thanks, Mom!), but it’s still important to include in the diet.
  • Zinc: Not only helps normal growth and development, it also plays role in helping develop baby’s sense of taste and smell.
Powerful additional nutrients that help baby thrive Most formulas also include other nutrients that are not required by the FDA but are aimed at boosting babies’ development. One example of these extra nutrients, which are found in many infant formulas and naturally in human breast milk, are omega-3 fatty acids DHA and ARA. DHA and ARA are the major long chain fats that play key roles in the structure and function of baby’s brain and nerve tissue. While not conclusive, some research suggests that DHA and ARA together help with visual acuity, visual attention and cognitive function, which translates to developing healthy seeing and thinking abilities. Combined with the carbohydrates, fats and protein discussed in Part 1 of this 2-part series, you now know the basics of what’s in infant formula.  Whichever formula you choose, rest assured that all infant formulas on the market are tightly regulated by the FDA in terms of which ingredients must be included and at what levels. Formula is food after all, so it makes sense the Food and Drug Administration would take care of matters for baby. Remember if you ever have any questions regarding the ingredients in infant formula, never hesitate to ask your pediatrician. Feed on parents! To learn more about the ingredients in Plum’s Organic Infant Formula, check out our formula ingredients page. About Risa SchulmanAbout Risa Schulman, PhD:Drawing on 18 years of experience working in the functional food and dietary supplement space, Risa leads Tap~Root consulting where she is able to expertly combine the worlds of functional health and ingredients in order to advise on products for better health. She is a frequent contributor to the Nutrition Business Journal, New Hope IdeaXchange and Natural Products Insider among other publications. In addition, she is published in various scientific journals including Pediatric Research, Neurobiology of Disease and Journal of Urology.

1National Institutes of Health:  Office of Dietary Supplements.  Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets:  Vitamin A

2National Institutes of Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus.  B Vitamins

3National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Vitamin C.

4National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Vitamin D.

5National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Vitamin E.

6National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Vitamin K.

7National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Calcium. 

8National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Iron. 

9National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets: Zinc. 

10Brenna JT et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17556680

11Fleith M, et al. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2005. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16048149

12Colombo J, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2013.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/06/26/ajcn.112.040766.abstract

13Hoffman DR, et al. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, 2009. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19505812

14Birch EE, et al. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 2010.  http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/91/4/848.full