“[In response to] an announcement from another U.S. infant formula manufacturer
about its plans to decrease the caloric density of some of its formula to 19 kcal/fl. oz,
Mead Johnson Nutrition (MUN) would like to assure youthat we have
NO plans to modify the density of our formulas from 20kcal/fl oz to 19 kcal/fl oz.”
-Mead Johnson news bulletin to pediatricians, April 1, 2014
My last two blogs discussed the evils of added sugar documented by the movie “Fed Up” and the possibility of an FDA ban of added trans fats in manufactured foods. Both describe politically correct responses to the growing awareness of U.S. and global obesity rates and prevalence. We are urged to become ingredient list readers and to “buy healthier” as a defense against food corporations’ slick advertising and successful lobbying against transparent ingredient lists.
Abbott is the latest food corporation to claim to save us all from the scourge of infant obesity, all by reducing its Similac calories by 1 kcal/fl. oz. Mead Johnson’s (Enfamil) rebuttal warns that reducing the formula calories means that infants would need to consume 1.5 more ounces per day to “meet their daily energy requirements during the first six months.” All my kids have left more than that on their bibs and chins every day, or as Stephen Colbert might say, “Give me a f&*king break!”
Abbott’s stated reason for the formula change, already labeled by Abbott as “Innovative”, is to help decrease excessive infant weight gain by matching its formula content more closely to breast milk. In my increasingly skeptical (cynical) view Similac is merely adding new marketing buzz words to the current debate about what makes obese infants and do they become obese adults?
It is hard for me to get too excited about minimal formula calorie changes when I remember that one can of Coke, Pepsi, or Sprite contains more sugar than 100% of the total daily requirement of sugar as defined by the American Heart Association (36 g). Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign against the super-size soda which contains 128g of sugar and the efforts to remove soda vending machines from schools even make some sense. One kcal/fl oz. or 1.5 more ounces of formula a day certainly pales by comparison on the spectrum of “sublime to ridiculous”.
One of the perks of being a pediatrician is being reminded daily about the flexibility, innate wisdom, and versatility of infants and toddlers. In a two-page news announcement peppered with scientific journal citations the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition notes that ” the number of formulas choices have increased and the selection process is more complicated”. It concludes in one of its more common-sense statements that “infants appear to eat to satisfy energy needs and will compensate for low food energy density … by increasing food intake.” Duh? More importantly, “Neither parents nor pediatricians should assume that newer and more expensive products have health benefits for infants.”