Background: Palm olein is used in infant formula fat blends in order to match the fatty acid profile of human milk. While the effects on fatty acid balance have been evaluated, the use of palm olein in combination with palm kernel oil and supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) has not been similarly assessed in infants. This study evaluated the effects of infant formulas containing different fat compositions on the balance of fat, fatty acids, and calcium.
Methods: In this randomized, crossover, double-blinded study, 33 healthy term infants (68-159 ± 3 days of age at enrollment) were fed two formulas for 14 days in a tolerance period, followed by a 4-day metabolic balance period in 17 of the male subjects. The study compared two commercially available milk-based powdered formulas in Brazil; the PALM formula contained palm olein (44%), kernel palm oil (21.7%), and canola oil (18.5%) as the predominant fats, whereas the NoPALM formula contained other fat sources.
Results: Fat absorption (%) was greater for NoPALM versus PALM-fed infants (96.55 and 95.50%, respectively; p = 0.023). The absorption percentage of palmitic acid (C16:0) did not differ significantly between formulas (p > 0.05), but this acid was excreted at significantly higher concentrations in the PALM (29.42 mg/kg/day) than in the NoPALM (12.28 mg/kg/day) formula groups. DHA and ARA absorption percentages were also higher in NoPALM-fed infants. Calcium absorption was higher in NoPALM-fed infants (58.00%) compared to those fed PALM (40.90%), but the difference was not significant (p = 0.104) when calcium intake was used as a covariate. However, calcium retention was higher in NoPALM-fed infants compared to that in PALM-fed infants with or without calcium intake as a covariate. Adverse events did not differ between groups (p > 0.05).
Conclusions: The absorption of essential fatty acids was similar for both formulas; however, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (DHA and ARA) were better absorbed from the NoPALM formula. Fat absorption and calcium retention were lower in term infants fed the PALM-based formula.
Clinical trial registration: Clinicaltrial.gov # NCT00941564 .
Keywords: Brazilian infants; Fatty acid balance; Infant formula; Kernel palm oil; Palm olein.