What do baby formulas and French fries have in common?

baby-formula-toxinsBaby formulas have to be heated during manufacture to keep out bad bacteria, and now scientists have discovered that the quest for bacteria-free purity leads to the production of toxins than can increase the risk of a myriad of health problems including diabetes. In fact, these are the same toxins found in French fries, the ones that make them really really bad for us (aside from excess calories and rancid unsaturated oils), known as Advanced Glycation End products (AGEs). These toxic byproducts of heating increase inflammation in the body and are associated with diabetes.

The research into AGEs and baby formula was done at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, which began with the finding that the AGEs found in baby formula were 100 times higher than those found in breast milk. When women switched from breast feeding to baby formula, “…the AGEs [in their babies] doubled to levels seen in people with diabetes, and many had elevated insulin levels.” And not surprisingly, women who eat a lot of fatty fried, grilled and processed foods have babies born with higher AGEs and  then pass it on in their breast milk.

When the researchers studied AGEs in adults with diabetes, they found that those who cut way back on high-AGEs food had significant improvements in insulin resistance, lower insulin levels and better control of blood sugar.

Virtually any food that contain proteins and carbohydrates forms AGEs when it is heated, but deep-fried foods and baked goods are the worst culprits. Those wanting to dramatically reduce AGEs need to poach, boil, stew and steam rather than bake, grill, fry and toast.

For those who are using formula, here’s the Environmental Work Group (EWG) Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles: Safe Baby Bottle and Formula Guide.

Hopefully this research from Mount Sinai Medical School will inspire manufacturers to create an AGEs-free baby formula.


Mericq V, Piccardo C et al, “Maternally transmitted and food-derived glycotoxins Diabetes Care,” 2010 Oct;33(10):2232-7.

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