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Digestion Of Infant Formula Releases Fatty Acids That Can Be Toxic To Premature Infants

December 10, 2012: 12:00 AM EST
An often deadly condition among premature infants has been linked by U.S. scientists to the digestion of infant formula, but not breast milk. Necrotizing enterocolitis, a severe and often fatal intestinal condition, develops when the “detergent” capacity of free fatty acids cause cellular death by damaging cell membranes. The researchers found that breast milk seems to have a built-in mechanism that prevents cell death, but formula quickly releases high levels of deadly free fatty acids during digestion. Breast milk, however, is digested in a slower, more controlled, process.
Alexander H. Penn et al., "Digested formula but not digested fresh human milk causes death of intestinal cells in vitro: implications for necrotizing enterocolitis", Pediatric Research, December 10, 2012, © Nature Publishing Group
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