Hazelnut Oil: A New Source for Healthy Formula Fats

    Breast Milk Omega 3Infant formula companies are constantly trying to reproduce breast milk. A mother's breast milk is perfect in every way and can provide all the nutrition her baby needs for more than a year. When a new mother cannot or chooses not to breastfeed, infant formula is the alternative. Currently, DHA and ARA are added to infant formula in an attempt to supply the healthy fats found naturally in breastmilk. The source of these fats is algae, but experts are unsure how the algae-derived fats are actually handled by the infant digestive system. In an attempt to find a source of DHA and ARA more closely related to mother’s milk, researchers found hazelnut oil.

    Mother’s Milk and Healthy Fatty Acids
    At the heart of the study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, are premature infants. Infants absorb DHA and ARA while in the womb, especially in the latter stages of pregnancy, but premature infants are delivered too early for optimal absorption to take place. Breast milk is not laced with the high levels of fatty acids found later in the pregnancy, so infants are not exposed to the healthy fatty acids needed for optimal growth and development.

    To support optimal growth, researchers set out to find a source of DHA and ARA that more closely resembled the fatty acids found in breast milk and hazelnut oil appears to be a viable source. The fatty acid chains were developed in a lab setting, but researchers report that the DHA and ARA created from hazelnut oil are extremely close to those found naturally in breast milk.

    Food Allergy Concerns
    With the huge rise in nut allergies being reported in infants and young children, there is a concern that using hazelnut oil as a source of DHA and ARA could pose a problem for some infants. Early sensitization could cause more severe symptoms later in life.

    Researchers did not mention a potential food allergy threat, but this concern is one infant formula companies would have to address before mass-producing an infant formula with DHA and ARA formulated from hazelnut oil.

    Source: Dilek Turan, Nese Sahin Yesilcubuk, Casimir C. Akoh. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. May 23, 2012.