A new infant formula infused with prebiotics protects a baby’s immune system like breast milk, according to a new study.
The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of Nutrition, studied 200 babies over six weeks, divided into three feeding groups: breastfed, formula-fed and formula fed with specific prebiotics. Multiple immune markers of breast-fed babies and babies using the prebiotic formula were nearly identical, the study showed. Prebiotics are fibers that support good bacteria in the body.
“This is the biggest breakthrough in the last decade” for Abbott formula, the owner Similac, said Dr. Rachael Buck, one of the study's researchers who works for the company.
The new formula contains 2’-fucosyllactose human milk oligosaccharide, prebiotics found naturally in breast milk.
The HMOs used in the new formula aren’t from human breast milk, but are created like vitamin supplements to have similar properties. They are absorbed into the baby's circulation to boost health, Buck said.
The formula, Similac® Pro-AdvanceTM and Similac Pro-SensitiveTM, is shipping to national retailers this month. It has a suggested retail price of $28.99, about two dollars more than Similac Advance.
While the new formula is advertised as the company's closest product to breast milk, Buck said it's not identical.
"Nothing can replace breast milk," Buck said. "But for those moms who need or choose to use formula, we are committed to providing the most scientifically advanced nutrition."