A healthy nutrition matters from the very beginning. New insights show that early nutrition goes beyond a healthy development during childhood and sets the foundation for metabolic health and disease later in life. According to a review from the Early Nutrition project, slow release carbohydrates, among other recommendations, should be the preferred choice in nutrition for infants and young children (Zalewski et al 2017). Slow release carbohydrates support a lower, smoother metabolic profile closer to that of breastfed babies. And they further help to reduce and smoothen blood glucose levels beyond infancy, when children consume regular foods. Isomaltulose is such a slow release carbohydrate. It supplies infants and children with the full carbohydrate energy in a more balanced way, with less effect on blood glucose levels and insulin. Replacing high GI carbs with isomaltulose can help reduce blood glucose and insulin, helping bring the metabolic profile closer to that of mother milk. Apart from its low glycaemic properties, isomaltulose can be found in baby teas for its dental properties: Isomaltulose is kind to teeth, it does not promote tooth decay (FDA 2008).
Introducing isomaltulose to early nutrition
During the first months of life, the infant’s gastrointestinal tract gradually adopts to external feeding, first with mother milk, and from about four to six month of age with complementary feeding. With the introduction of new foods, also isomaltulose can be introduced to the diet with follow-on formulas, weaning food, baby teas or regular foods.
A study conducted under the Early Nutrition project confirms the suitability and safe use for infants and children from 4-6 months. In this randomized, controlled trial over 4 weeks, the 50 infants in the age of 4 to 8 months accepted and tolerated the isomaltulose containing follow-on formula as well as the conventional formula with high glycaemic maltodextrin (Fleddermann et al 2016).
Hence, from early on when children learn from their parents and social community about healthy food choice, isomaltulose can serve as carbohydrate alternative with slow release or toothfriendly properties.
Milk formulas with isomaltulose – a better alternative with reference to lactose
While lactose is the carbohydrate present in breast milk and serves as reference in infant and follow-on formulas, the use of lactose as the sole source of carbohydrate energy declines with complementary feeding and the introduction of other foods and carbohydrates into the baby’s diet.
Many baby milk formulas, weaning foods and other foods for kids of all age contain fast and high glycaemic sugars and carbohydrates, providing children with energy loads for their development and growth. When looking for options to lower blood glucose levels for its advantages in long-term metabolic health, isomaltulose can serve as low GI alternative and as a better “partner” for combinations with lactose.
Moreover, beyond the age of breastfeeding, the development of lactose intolerance is common throughout the global population. Enzyme activity to digest lactose typically declines within the first years of life and leads to digestive discomfort. Here, isomaltulose serves as the best carbohydrate alternative in lactose-free products.
Fuel for kids – isomaltulose for sustained energy, cognition and mood
Children are active and eager to move, learn and try new things. With the idea to fuel their active life, growth and development, foods for kids are often rich in fast carbohydrates, sugars and maltodextrin. Isomaltulose can provide carbohydrate energy in a more steady and sustained way, and so helps to stabilize blood sugar levels in children, who react even more sensitive to blood glucose fluctuations than adults. Resulting benefits to cognition and mood of school-age children have been shown by Young and Benton in 2015: When school children in the age of 5 to 11 years consumed identical breakfasts, which only varied in the type of carbohydrate, the children had a significant better memory performance in the late morning with the isomatlulose-containing breakfast, and also their mood was improved, in comparison with the glucose-containing breakfast. Children of this age may be particularly susceptible to the different glucose release from isomaltulose because of their higher rate of glucose utilization in the brain.
Fleddermann M, Rauh-Pfeiffer A, Demmelmair H, Holdt L, Teupser D, Koletzko B (2016) Effects of a Follow-On Formula Containing Isomaltulose (Palatinose™) on Metabolic Response, Acceptance, Tolerance and Safety in Infants: A Randomized-Controlled Trial. PloS ONE 11(3):e0151614. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151614
Young H, Benton D (2015) The effect of using isomaltulose (Palatinose™) to modulate the glycaemic properties of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children. Eur J Nutr 54(6):1013-1020. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0779-8
Zalewski BM, Patro B, Veldhorst M, Kouwenhoven S, Crespo Escobar P, Calvo Lerma J, Koletzko B, van Goudoever JB, Szajewska H (2017) Nutrition of infants and young children (one to three years) and its effect on later health: A systematic review of current recommendations (EarlyNutrition project). Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 57(3):489-500. DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2014.888701