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Human milk provides optimal infant nutrition for early life development. However, there are situations in which human milk feeding is not the most viable option for infant nutrition. Some factors include maternal illness, lactation insufficiency, storage complications, and time constraints. As a result, modern infant formula has become a substitute or alternative when breastfeeding is not possible or is inadequate for infants. In the optimal design of formula, many factors are considered in creating a product that is safe and provides a nutritional profile either equivalent to human milk or in optimal alignment with infant needs. Human milk composition serves as a reference for infant formula formulation. The purpose of this literature review is to provide a synopsis of recent advances in infant formula research in the past 5 years (2014– 2018). Specifically, the breadth of bioactive components of human milk that are not yet available in infant formulas and dose optimization requirements in full-term infants are reviewed. The nutritional value of infant formulas has been improved by adding functional bioactive ingredients such as choline, strains of probiotics, and prebiotic oligosaccharides. There are considerable variations in the composition of available infant formulas between manufacturers and across different countries. Formulas still generally lack important contents such as antibodies and exosomes that are present in human milk. Some of the adverse health outcomes associated with formula feeding as compared with human milk feeding are attributed to the different composition of the foods. This literature review summarizes the most recent research aimed at advancing infant formula composition to narrow the difference in health outcomes between human milk and formula-fed infants.


This article was originally published in Nutrition and Dietary Supplements, volume 12, in 2020.

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