Skip to main content
ASK AN EXPERT
Got a question about a health story in the news or a health topic? Here's your chance to get an answer. Send us your questions about general health topics, diet and fitness and mental health. If your question is chosen, it could be featured on CNN.com's health page with an answer from one of our health experts, or by a participant in the CNNhealth community.




* CNN encourages you to contribute a question. By submitting a question, you agree to the following terms found below.
You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. By submitting your question, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your questions(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statment.
Thank you for your question!

It will be reviewed and considered for posting on CNNHealth.com. Questions and comments are moderated by CNN and will not appear until after they have been reviewed and approved. Unfortunately, because of the voume of questions we receive, not all can be posted.

Submit another question or Go back to CNNHealth.com

Read answers from our experts: Living Well | Diet & Fitness | Mental Health | Conditions

Expert Q&A

  • Share this on:
    Share
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

What are healthy qualities in infant formula?

Asked by Angela Thiery-Devins, Shelton, Washington

Open quote
Close quote

I have a 9-month old and need to move to formula. When I looked at the back of the formula packages, I was shocked to learn that the first ingredient in of most of them was corn syrup solids. Isn't that sugar? What should I be looking for in a formula? I am a concerned mom just trying to do the right thing for my baby. Thank you.

Expert Bio Picture

Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer

Hi Angela -- First of all, congratulations on breastfeeding for 9 months. Research clearly shows that this is better for the baby whenever possible for optimal health. Since I have a 4-month-old and will be facing the transition to formula soon, I was very curious about this as well as I was somewhat surprised to find corn syrup at the top of the ingredient list for many formulas. I contacted my pediatrician, Dr. Jeremy Shapiro, who also has a master's in public health and has presented research on childhood obesity. He gave me the following explanation.

"Every formula (just like breast milk) has numerous ingredients but the three primary ones are a protein source, a fat source, and a carbohydrate source. And what are carbohydrates made of? Sugars. In fact, it's probably easiest to view sugars and carbohydrates as one in the same thing with some examples including lactose (milk sugar), sucrose (table sugar) and even corn syrup. "

He goes on the explain that "in regular milk-protein based formulas, the primary carbohydrate is lactose and not corn syrup. However, there will be times when an infant may not be able to tolerate the regular milk-protein based formulas and alternative formulas are needed. It is these formulas that may include corn syrup so that the infant may have an easier time digesting them until their system matures. So unless your child has a known sensitivity, when it comes to formulas, I would first recommend regular milk-protein based formulas that include lactose as the primary carbohydrate."

In the two primary brands of formula, lactose is the first and primary source of carbohydrates. Interestingly, in one of the major organic brands, lactose is not used, rather sucrose is the primary carbohydrate. For this reason Dr. Jeremy is not a big fan of organic formula.

It is important to point out that corn syrup is not the same as high fructose corn syrup, which some researchers believe may contribute to obesity. Both sweeteners are less expensive than sucrose, so this is probably why corn syrup is used in baby formula, which can already be fairly expensive.

The reality is we don't really know the impact of different types of sugars on infants. It is not likely as big a concern with regards to obesity because infants are not in a metabolic state to be impacted by things such as too much sugar or the glycemic index of foods since they are using every calorie for growth, unlike adults who use excess calories for fat.

More Q&A

  • CNN's Medical UnitCNN's medical unit brings you the best experts available to answer your questions about current events and health issues that matter most to you.
Will jogging hurt an obese person's joints?asked by: Asked by John Simmet; St. Paul, Minnesota
Is creatine a safe supplement?asked by: Asked by Ralph; New York
What foods cause flatulence?asked by: Asked by Peter; United States

CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. All comments should be relevant to the topic and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. You are solely responsible for your own comments, the consequences of posting those comments, and the consequences of any reliance by you on the comments of others. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying and other information you provide via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.