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Infant formula and protein levels

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Infant formula and protein levels

There are some interesting findings in relation to child obesity and I think it's time to have a look at this in relation to formula vs. breast feeding. I'm examining the popular range of infant formulas in relation to protein and it's most enlightening.

Recently infant formula manufacturers have examined protein levels in infant formula in relation to childhood obesity. The protein in infant formula is either casein or whey dominated. Casein is harder to digest, stays in the stomach longer and is the curds. Whey is easier to digest and is the watery milk. Some formula's are a balance of casein and whey, others are whey dominant.

Amino acid content differs from breast milk and a higher protein level is required to meet minimum amounts of specified amino acids, especially tryptophan. Remember that blog I wrote recently on tryptophan and helping babies sleep?


Research into infant feeding and later growth has reported that infants breastfed more than 12 months were leaner at one year. A major well-conducted, randomised, controlled trial of lower protein formula undertaken in Europe concluded that a ‘higher protein content of infant formula is associated with higher weight in the first 2 years of life but has no effect on length. Lower protein intake in infancy might diminish the later risk of childhood overweight and obesity. Since this study, the quality of the protein in many brands of infant formula in Europe has been improved, enabling the overall protein levels to be reduced.

"A review of links between protein levels of infant formula and cow’s milk and obesity and chronic disease in adulthood is now available. This is really interesting and new information. This evidence suggests that preferable levels of protein in formula to promote growth rates similar to breastfed infants are similar to the levels in human milk, subject to a minimum content of specific amino acids.

Human breast milk contains 1–1.1 g protein per 100 ml compared to cow’s milk with 3.3 g per 100 ml.

Protein content in infant formulas available in Australia is in the range of 1.3–2.0 g protein per 100 ml, with goat’s milk formula at the high end of this range.

Currently, formulas must meet the permitted protein amounts, which allow a protein range between 1.8 and 3.0 g/100 kcal. However, there is no agreement on the appropriate amount of protein in infant formulas. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a protein content ranging between 1.8 and 4.5 g/100 kcal, according to the biological quality of protein. Recently, the European Food Safety Authority proposed to lower the maximum protein content of infant formula to 2.5 g/100 kcal. In addition, it has been recommended that formulas with a protein content between 1.80 and 2 g/100 kcal should undergo clinical assessments of their safety and suitability.

Nan HA Gold has 1.3g per 100ml - protein is 100% whey

S26 Newborn Gold has 1.3g protein per 100ml - protein is 65% whey, 35% casein

Karicare Aptamil Gold has 1.44g per 100ml - protein is 60% whey and 40% casein

A2 Platinum formula has 1.5g per 100mls - 60% whey and 40% casein

Bellamy's Organic Newborn has 1.7g per 100mls - the protein is 60% whey and 40% casein

I hope you found that interesting and I agree it was very long overdue!

I'm going to delve into the nitty gritty next of what is different about each formula. Each company has its' special ingredient and I think parents need to know what exactly is Gold or HA or the individual probiotics etc. Coming up very soon.

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