Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Autism, infant formula with Martek's oils

Awhile ago, a father whose son was autistic contacted me. He believes there is a relationship between his son's autism and the infant formula his son consumed. In particular, his concerns were about the DHA and ARA oils manufactured by Martek that are placed in almost all infant formulas on the market. He has written the FDA, various government agencies, and researchers looking for answers. And more importantly to register his belief that his son was injured by these additives that are used in over 90% of all formulas manufactured. When he first contacted me, I was set in my thinking that autism was related to vaccine damage. And I haven't changed that belief, yet his concerns, his questions made me start to question what I thought I knew. According to Wikipedia the steep rise in cases of autism began in the years 1996 thru 2007. What changed during those years besides vaccinations? What about infant formula? And particularly infant formula with the added Martek "novel"oils? When was Martek's oils introduced into infant formula? According to Martek's company history, the first preterm infant formula with these oils was on the market in 1994 and the first term infant formula in 1997.
In 2001 Martek declared that the oils were GRAS and the FDA affirmed that position. The FDA GRAS system is no longer an approval system but rather an affirmation system. Still people assume the safety of the oils since the FDA had no questions regarding Martek's declaration. The safety of new ingredients in this system are learned after the fact (meaning the consumer is the guinea pig) and only by consumer complaint or a massive incident with injuries and deaths (Chinese infant formula contamination tragedy). With infant formula it is up to the parent or caregiver to make the complaint. The US FDA system is dependent upon a highly literate/articulate and computer savy parent/consumer. The industry does its own safety evaluation and that is like allowing a student who is taking a test to score his/her own paper. Some students will be honest. Similiarly some manufacturers will be honest in the GRAS process and some won't be.
There is a current belief in some research circles that "substances released in the gut give rise to autism." There has been a recognition that autistic children seems to have "metabolic abnormalities and gastrointestinal problems--gut pain and diarrhea."
The New Scientist, "Gut bacteria may contribute to autism" by Linda Geddes June 2010
The recognition that bacteria in feces of children with autism is different than children without autism has created a new diagnostic test for autism. The belief is that the gut bacteria is creating a toxin that interferes with brain development. In particular researchers are looking at the clostridium bacteria. A study done in 2002 in Clin Infect Dis 2002 by Finegold et al. called "Gastrointestinal microflora studies in late-onset autism states, "The number of clostridial spores found in stools of children with autism was greater than in stools of control children." In the 1980's research linked clostridium difficile with SIDS and with the possibility of an association to infant formula feeding. "Infants fed formula were nearly four times more likely to carry C. difficile than were those exclusively breast-fed (62 versus 16%). whereas breastfed infants also receiving formula or solids had an intermediate rate of colonization (35%)."
Pediatrics, "Clostridium difficile in Normal Infants and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: An association with Infant Formula Feeding" by Cooperstock et al. vol 70 no1 July 1982, p.91-95
What we know, "Human milk populates the intestine's with Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, generating a very different gut flora than that seen after formula feeding." US Patent #6682744
There are many patents on harvesting bacteria from breastfed infants poop or the sugars of human milk to create prebiotics and probiotics.
What is Clostridium difficile? Its a bacteria that some people get after taking antibiotics, it causes a very severe diarrhea. Human milk has factors that are active against C. difficile (in vitro): secretory IgA, Carbohydrate, free secretory component, and unidentified factors.
Research shows us that the stools of the breastfed infant and the formula-fed infant are very different. More formula fed infants have the bacteria clostridium difficile in their stools. Researchers believe that this bacteria creates a toxin (possibly causing death from SIDS-research in the 80's). The bacteria is now implicated in autism. And we know that more infant formula infants have this bacteria in their feces than exclusively breastfed infants. Is there a relationship between this bacteria/toxin and autism? Is exclusive breastfeeding protective against autism? Are there toxins created by ingesting Martek's DHA/ARA oils in baby formulas, foods? What do novel ingredients,these oils, do to the gut of the newborn? Create a leaky gut? A gut susceptible to bacterial invasion? One would suspect that mammals who ingest the milks of other mammals rather than their own species have damage done to their intestines. The Pharm Woman patent owned by Baylor College of Medicine, states that the growth of the gut (activation of the DNA) occurs when mammals are feed their own species milk. Short gut syndrome is caused by the use of infant formula--which means digestion is impaired. We do unknown damage to newborn mammals--particularly the human mammal when artificial milks are used. Damage to the gut, damage to the brain from the intestines inability to colonize the good bacteria. A gut colonized by an overgrowth of the wrong bacteria creates sickness and death and perhaps even autism?
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain


  1. Valerie, I apologize for not being in touch for so long. I have been very busy. I wanted to give a few links to support the safety concerns of DHASCO/ARASCO infant formulas. We both know that these novel oils are structurally different than human milk sources. After digestive processes, free DHA and ARA will become available to interact with free iron from the ferrous sulfate that is used as an iron supplement. This will initiate oxidation. The links I am providing will explain how this oxidation may become very harmful. I hope to talk to you soon-wishing you well-Mike Pescatore

  2. For those unable to breast feed(masectomy) what formula is best?

  3. The World Health Organization recommends that if a woman is unable to breastfeed, then her own pumped milk is the next best option. If that is not an option, then donor human milk is the next option. Last, is the option of infant formula. There is no "best" formula. Infant formula is always a risk. If just one breast is removed, not a double masectomy, it is possible to nurse on only one side. Is chemo/radiation treatments over with? Have you had reconstruction surgery? Adopted babies nurse at the breast through devices that use mother's pumped milk, donor milk, or infant formula. If donor milk cannot be found, and infant formula must be used, then look for something organic without Martek oils. We are first and foremost mammals, our babies thrive on human milk. We take risks when we use other milks to feed our babies. If you need information on donor milk, please email me

  4. This study actually says exact opposite about formula with vs w/out DHA/ARA.

  5. Anonymous,
    I don't understand your comment. The link you provide to the article is actually my critique of that particular study. The study's validity in my opinion is questionable.

  6. Anonymous,
    The IBJ article was a survey that concluded: "that children who were not breastfed or were fed infant formula without dha/ara supplementation were significantly more likely to have autistic disorder." There are significant problems with this survey. Under methods, "Breastfeeding data was recorded from a drop-down menu with nine choices of duration of breastfeeding. This variable was recoded into five categories: none, less than 2 months, 2–6 months, more than 6 months, and unknown. These breastfeeding categories were tested for association with autism using logistic regression." There were two drop down menus: one for infant formula use and one for breastfeeding. But no menu for mixed feeding, the dominant mode of infant feeding in the USA. Is the length of feeding the only criteria for understanding health effects of formula vs. breastfeeding? The study states that supplementation of dha/ara was only available in the US since 2002. Reading Martek literature, dha/ara was placed in preterm formulas prior to 2002.
    This study in my opinion was and is used to prove that the addition of Martek's dha/ara to infant formula is a necessity to prevent autism. Yet, we should understand that mixed feeding does not prove a health effect. Duration of breastfeeding was their only criteria. The lead author is associated with the US Navy-Dental Corp/US Navy. The article states, "The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the US Government." Martek Bioscience has a funding relationship with the US Government. How much influence, not necessarily financial, does the industry of algae production have on UC-San Diego and the military. Martek is involved in the production of biofuel from algae.

  7. The purpose of a majority of research in the USA is to sell products not to delve into truths. The infant formula industry uses breastfeeding/human milk studies to further the selling of their new improved formulas. Is the DHA/ARA created by Martek identical to the DHA/ARA in human milk? Nope. I believe that the infant formula industry should not be allowed to market/make health claims regarding their products. Despite genetic engineering, one cannot make an infant formula identical to human milk, unless the industry believes it has taken on god-like capabilities.

  8. this kind of study is the same as saying people that sleep at night are more likely to get cancer...there is no definate answer on why autism happens and 50% of babies drink formula, so lets blame it on that. breastfeeding is the best choice for babies (I am a nursing mother), but I'm sure there are just as many breastfed babies that die of SIDS or are autistic.

  9. Anonymous,
    When you make this statement, "but I'm sure there are just as many breastfed babies that die of SIDS or are autistic," what studies support your belief? You do not state what studies or references have created this belief of yours. How am I suppose to take your comment as a serious critique of my post?

  10. This is interesting information. I have 4 children, 2 breastfed one to 9 months and the other 18 months, two were breastfed for 4 months with formula supplimented. One of the 4 month w/suppliment was diagnosed autistic at 3. She has asperger syndrome. I can't positively correlate the autism diagnosis because she was premature. The other three have no signs of any kind of autism and none but the premature daughter has a food sensitivity (lactose intolerance). Here is one question: the premature baby was given sugar (glucose) water in the nursery at the hospital, and I have been informed by several sources that this is common practice, especially for babies who are to be formula fed from the start. Has any study been done as to the effects of giving newborns glucose water?
    My next question, my aunt had 8 children, for the first 2 to 3 months they were breastfed, then they were all given goat milk (fresh from the goat, not canned or processed). All 8 grew up healthy and fine. One is allergic to peanuts, but other than that, no problem. No other health problems at all. I'm wondering if this wouldn't even be considered as a "safer" alternative to chemically processed infant formulas.

  11. I remember studies that used glucose water in newborns to lower bilirubin. But have not come across any recent studies on the use of glucose water.

    There are no "safer" alternatives to breastfeeding other than the use of either pumped human milk from the infant's mother or donor human milk. History of infant feeding shows us that infants have survived a variety of alternatives to breastfeeding. But survival does not equal optimal health--physically, mentally.