By Elizabeth, last name withheld for privacy of family
Fructose is a sugar that is found in fruit and gives it its sweetness. It is also found in table sugar (sucrose) and is one of the leading industrial sweeteners in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is very sweet and makes many foods more appealing. Many baby formulas use fructose as a sweetener to make the formula more appealing and to increase caloric content which is essential for babies. But there are some babies, about 1 in 20,000, for whom fructose is a deadly poison. These infants cannot process fructose in their livers and it causes severe liver damage.
About six months ago we almost lost our 6-month old grandbaby. Her mom had started to wean her, and was supplementing with formula. By the time symptoms developed to get her to the doctor’s office, her liver was so damaged that the doctors were saying she would likely need a liver transplant to survive. They immediately switched back to only breast milk, but had to get other mothers to contribute, since her own mom no longer had enough. Fortunately, we were blessed to have what the doctors called an actual “miracle recovery” and she is fine now, just cannot have any fructose, possibly ever. Her mom now calls her a “keto baby.”
But in the interim I learned a lot about fructose. Most commercial baby formulas have some form of fructose . . . usually as high fructose corn syrup solids, but regular table sugar, which is comprised of fructose and glucose, also has fructose in it. Most babies will not suffer critical issues, as did my granddaughter, but many sources believe that early exposure to sugar and fructose may predispose babies to other health risks such as obesity, fatty liver disease, diabetes etc. Our granddaughter’s doctor told us that the livers of most babies do not process fructose very well for the first year of their lives.
Fructose is a 6-carbon monosaccharide (single sugar molecule) much like glucose and galactose. Our bodies run primarily on glucose, and it is the job of the liver to turn other sugar forms into glucose. When the liver cannot do that, the fructose might build up in the liver and cause damage.
Fortunately, there are some formulas that do not have sugar or fructose in them. Many of these are made in Europe and use lactose, a milk sugar, for sweetening, which is the same kind of sugar in breast milk.Just because a formula says organic, doesn’t mean it has no fructose or sucrose in it. Some of the ones with no fructose or sucrose are made by these are Holle, Hipp and Bobbie. There are probably others as well. And not all babies have serious problems processing fructose.
So if you are looking for a formula for your baby, consider using the formulas which do not use fructose or sucrose in them, if you want to be on the safe side.
Emory Health Sciences. "Sugars in infant formulas pose risk to babies with inherited metabolic disorder: Acute liver failure caused by hereditary fructose intolerance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2018.
Hong Li, Heather M. Byers, et al. Acute liver failure in neonates with undiagnosed hereditary
fructose intolerance due to exposure from widely available infant formulas. Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, 2018; 123 (4): 428
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