March 24, 2021 9 min read
Baby formula is a practical necessity for many parents. Work schedules and lactation problems are some common and valid reasons why a lot of moms and dads choose to bottle-feed their child rather than feed them breast milk.
However, the developing body and brain of a baby requires optimal nutrition. A baby is also very vulnerable to environmental toxins. How can parents who need to bottle-feed choose the best formula possible and avoid the downsides that can come with formula? Learn about aluminum contamination in baby formula and how HiPP safety tests their formula to minimize the risk of contaminants entering their products.
A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health tested a selection of 24 baby formula brands and found a wide range of aluminum levels, with some products containing as much as 83 times the amount found in human breast milk. Researchers found that the types of formulas that harbored the most metal pollution were those designed to help a baby gain weight rapidly, as well as those designed to address food allergies and intolerances (Redgrove et al., 2019, p. 899).
It is also suggested that using tap water in formula preparation can increase aluminum levels even further, depending on locale. Using distilled water (which is known to have a much lower aluminum content) is a possibly cleaner option.
The hard numbers about the presence of aluminum in widely used baby formulas are alarmingly too many. One begins to wonder how it is even possible that so much of this metal could physically end up in a can of formula mix. It also makes you wonder how different brands, such as HiPP, are quality testing their formula for different contamination levels?
Some manufacturers may have less rigorous controls in place when it comes quality testing for pesticides and other possibly harmful ingredients. Thus, there are many points along the line of production where metal contamination may happen to the product.
For example, grass grown for feeding cows might be planted in a field with high-aluminum soil that is not tested beforehand. The cows might be given aluminum-laden water to drink. There is also the potential for corporations to use manufacturing equipment or packaging that contains aluminum; this can cause the metal to leach into the formula. Since there many possible points of entry for contaminants, we appreciate how HiPP makes their safety practices transparent.
Many have heard of the dangers of having high amounts of metals in the body. New parents learning about the metal content of a typical baby formula may be eager to know if aluminum carries exactly the same risks as heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and iron. What exactly does aluminum exposure do to the human body?
Aluminum is actually considered a lightweight metal. Aluminum does not carry quite as high of a toxicity as the heavy metals do. Normal levels found in the environment and in food do not have the potential to harm a typical, healthy adult. However, extremely large amounts of this metal can still be toxic or even fatal. Furthermore, people with certain medical conditions may be exponentially more susceptible to aluminum poisoning.
Aluminum poisoning is known to damage many different organs and systems of the body (Bingham & Cohrssen, 2012, pp. 229–249). For example, due to the way it prevents the digestive system from absorbing minerals such as iron and zinc, aluminum overdose can cause anemia.
Bone disorders are another danger of high aluminum exposure. Osteomalacia, a disease wherein the bones become soft and bendable, is a known effect of aluminum poisoning. The link between said metal and bone disorders is thought to be due to the way it interferes with the absorption of phosphorus, a mineral necessary for bone integrity.
Researchers have observed that aluminum increases estrogen-related gene expression in laboratory-cultured breast cancer cells (Darbre, 2006, p. 196). This is because it is a metalloestrogen, or a metal that mimics the effect of estrogen in the body because it binds to estrogen receptors. Other metalloestrogens include:
These findings imply that aluminum may have the potential to increase the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer and uterine cancer. To date, there have not been large scale human studies that prove this connection. However, this is still something to bear in mind when considering the risks of excess aluminum.
Some other things that aluminum toxicity might cause or contribute to include:
Despite the negative health effects aluminum exposure can cause in adults, the vast majority of adults do not need to worry over everyday exposure. People with kidney or liver problems, people who take aluminum-containing medications, and people who work industrial jobs that involve metal exposure are the main groups that have any real reason to be concerned.
However, this is only true of otherwise healthy adults. A baby, on the other hand, has a much more delicate system. The same amount of metal that would have no effect on adult may be toxic for a baby. The short answer is that yes, aluminum in formula may harm a growing baby. As parents, you want to keep your baby as healthy as possible. That is why it's important to educate yourself about the safety practices of baby formula manufacturers such as HiPP. This will give you a better idea about how clean the ingredients in your baby's formula are.
There is also some evidence that maternal aluminum exposure during pregnancy will worsen health outcomes for the child. Animal studies have demonstrated that when an expecting mother is exposed to this metal, it causes malformations, disrupted development of many kinds, and failure to grow properly. It may also significantly delay puberty.
We know that there is a high presence of aluminum in some baby formulas. However, the medical community does not currently seem to accept it as scientifically proven that the metal content of formula may harm the baby who consumes it. This is because there have not been enough large-scale studies.
However, the preliminary evidence from some studies suggests that the health consequences are not good. One study published in New England Journal of Medicine looked at the effects of aluminum exposure on the neurological development of 227 preterm babies who required intravenous feeding. Researchers found that switching from standard feeding solution to a specially-made, aluminum-free solution improved the babies' neurological development (Bishop et al., 1997, p. 1561). Plus: There are isolated case reports of newborn infants with congenital kidney problems from apparent aluminum toxicity (Freundlich, 1985, p. 527).
Even though the gastrointestinal absorption rate for aluminum is considered to be quite low, these studies are cause for concern and it is important for regulatory agencies to take action and protect babies from coming into contact with these contaminants. It is especially important to protect premature babies who are more vulnerable to aluminum toxicity than adults are.
There are several situations in which it is especially important to be aware of the quality of baby formula, especially in regards to metal contamination. It's best to use a very low-aluminum or aluminum-free formula for babies who...
These are the groups that are most susceptible to aluminum poisoning from formula. However, children may have an easier time reaching their full potential when given low-aluminum or aluminum-free formula even if these categories do not apply to them. Neurological development may improve. This area of development includes things like cognition, motor control, and IQ.
Many parents find it worthwhile to invest in finding a quality, low-aluminum or aluminum-free baby formula so that their child is given the greatest possible chance to thrive. However, high aluminum in formula is very commonplace and information about which brands have the lowest amounts may be hard to come by. So, how can a new parent pick a safe and healthy baby formula without metal contamination?
The same study mentioned earlier, where researchers tested the aluminum contents of 24 different baby formula brands, has some insight about this topic. In the words of the researchers, some of the brands "...contained the lowest concentrations of aluminum yet measured in our laboratory. These higher cost specialist preparations demonstrate that the contamination of baby formulas by aluminum is not inevitable."
When it comes to baby formulas it's important to do your research into the ingredients used in the product. Parents concerned about aluminum levels may wish to consider choosing an organic formula, although they may come at a higher cost, they are required to meet certain strict organic standards. For this reason, going for an organic formula can be a great idea. EU organic specialist brands are held to very high standards and a lot more of care goes into choosing clean quality ingredients.
It may sound paradoxical because of the health benefits that adults can enjoy from eating a plant-based diet, but in the case of baby formula the milk-based formula might be the better choice. This is because much plant-based baby formula is made from soy, which research shows tends to have higher aluminum levels compared to animal-based formula mix.
Bottom line: Aluminum in any formula can be dangerous for a baby, that's why HiPP is so committed to testing their formula for contamination of aluminum and other metals. What exactly sets HiPP apart from other formulas?
HiPP organic baby formula is a very popular choice for parents because of HiPP's exceptional quality assurance of organic baby formula. HiPP is proud to say that "the company's own accredited laboratory is one of the best in Europe and able to analyse more than 1,200 parameters." That's good news for parents looking to avoid aluminum and other contaminants. The safety and well-being ofthe little HiPP consumers are always the top priority for the HiPP company and the organic formula is manufactured with great care and undergoes frequent testing.
To minimize the entry of heavy metals, the raw materials are subject to strict selection and comprehensive controls. HiPP has a comprehensive quality management system - checking for heavy metals is part of their usual analysis program, and they have decades of experience in this process. With these practices HiPP's products are able to satisfy the strict internal quality criteria and the strict legal requirements for baby food by the European Commission.
The quality testing parameters for HiPP infant formula are far stricter than what is actually required by law. HiPP tests for over 1,000 harmful substances. By the time this European HiPP formula is packaged up and ready for sale, HiPP will have conducted up to 260 tests throughout the production process. HiPP uses some of the most sensitive measuring technology to ensure premium quality.
Not only is HiPP organic formula thoroughly tested before sale, all HiPP baby milk also uses high-quality natural ingredients in every product. Cows' milk used for HiPP formula is obtained from farms that fully comply with organic farming guidelines. HiPP cows graze in natural, organic meadows that are grown without the use of chemical or synthetic agents. The soil is tested for safety and purity before an organic pasture is put to use for HiPP cows.
HiPP offers specially-tailored organic formulas for all stages of baby development. Within the HiPP company of products, there are several country-specific versions (German, Dutch, UK) with varying compositions. This way HiPP adjusts to different preferences. The HiPP Hypoallergenic and special formulas are especially composed for babies with special nutritional needs. HiPP has different stages for different ages that span the entirety of a child's bottle-feeding years, from birth until about 3 years of age.
Parents thinking of switching from the formula they are currently using for their baby to an organic infant formula like HiPP should know that HiPP has more than 50 years of experience making some of the best-quality organic products. Plus, HiPP formula makes every effort to use sustainable packaging for their organic products. Please remember if you're considering switching your baby's formula to speak with your pediatrician first.
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends evidenced in babies and toddlers, it is in no way medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice to make choices related to your child's diet. Always consult your pediatrician prior to taking any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
1. Bingham, E., & Cohrssen, B. (2012). Patty’s Toxicology (Vol. 1). Wiley.
2. Bishop, N. J., Morley, R., Day, J. P., & Lucas, A. (1997). Aluminum Neurotoxicity in Preterm Infants Receiving Intravenous-Feeding Solutions. New England Journal of Medicine, 336(22), 1557–1562.
3. Darbre, P. D. (2006). Metalloestrogens: an emerging class of inorganic xenoestrogens with potential to add to the oestrogenic burden of the human breast. Journal of Applied Toxicology, 26(3), 191–197. https://doi.org/10.1002/jat.1135
4. Freundlich, M. (1985). Infant formula as a cause of aluminum toxicity in neonatal uraemia. The Lancet, 326(8454), 527–529. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(85)90463-5
5. Redgrove, J., Rodriguez, I., Mahadevan-Bava, S., & Exley, C. (2019). Prescription Infant Formulas Are Contaminated with Aluminium. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(5), 899.
6. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020, October 23). Aluminum | Uses, Properties, & Compounds. Encyclopedia Britannica.
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