Special Formulas Improve Colicky Babies
Feb. 1, 2000 (Los Angeles) -- Colicky babies respond well to formulas
consisting of protein fragments rather than whole proteins, according to two
new studies in Acta Paediatrica. "Both papers strengthen the thought
that colic may be due to dietary factors," co-researcher Anthony Kulczycki
Jr., MD, tells WebMD.
Colic is a syndrome that affects about 20% of infants in the first months of
life. The infants are irritable and fussy, and they cry inconsolably. The cause
is unknown, but studies have pointed to elements in the diet.
In their paper, Kulczycki, an associate professor of medicine at Washington
University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and his colleague, studied six
healthy male infants diagnosed with moderate to severe colic -- at least 3
hours per day of fussing or crying for at least 2 weeks. The babies were
between three and seven weeks of age when they entered the study.
After a three- to six-day evaluation period, the infants received a formula
called Neocate (SHS North America), which is based on amino acids, the basic
components of protein They received the formula for at least five and as long
as 17 days. At the end of that period, the authors fed the babies small amounts
of cow's-milk protein to see if the symptoms returned.
In the second study, conducted by I. Jakobsson, MD, and colleagues in
Sweden, 22 infants with severe colic (crying seven-and-a-half hours per day)
were fed two different formulas, Alimentum (Abbott Laboratories) or Nutramigen
(Mead Johnson Nutritionals), in which the protein molecules had been only
partially broken down. The researchers were comparing both formulas' effect on
The babies received one formula for 7 days and were then switched to the
other formula for another 7 days. On days 15, 18, and 21 the investigators gave
them two forms of cow's-milk protein and a placebo, in random order.
In both studies, most of the infants tolerated the formula well and
improved, usually within one to two days. Alimentum and Nutramigen were found
to be equally effective. Also in both studies, the infant's colicky symptoms
returned when "challenged" with the cow's milk or bovine protein.
Colic is a common symptom "that encompasses a large number of underlying
diagnoses," says Clifton Furukawa, MD, head of pediatric allergy at the
University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He estimates that milk
intolerance causes at least 8% of cases, although no one knows for sure.
However, according to Sajjad Yacoob, MD, a pediatrician at Children's
Hospital of Los Angeles, milk-protein intolerance by definition is not colic.
"Mostly colic is something that we haven't been able to define yet. What
[these investigators] may have done is just treated a milk-protein
intolerance." Neither Furukawa nor Yacoob were involved in either