Objectives: Levels of stool fatty acid soaps and beneficial bacteria differ between formula-fed and breast-fed infants; addition of specific formula ingredients may reduce these differences. This study evaluated the effects of a term infant formula containing high sn-2 palmitate term infant formula (sn-2) or an identical formula supplemented with oligofructose (OF) at 2 concentrations (sn-2+3 g/L OF, sn-2+5 g/L OF) on stool composition, stool characteristics, and fecal bifidobacteria.
Methods: Healthy, term formula-fed infants 7 to 14 days old (n = 300) were randomized in a double-blind manner to receive standard formula (control), sn-2, sn-2+3 g/L OF, or sn-2+5 g/L OF for 8 weeks. Human milk (HM)–fed infants (n = 75) were studied in parallel. Stool samples were collected from all subjects at week 8 for fatty acid soaps and mineral content, and from a subset at baseline and week 8 for bifidobacteria. Stool characteristics were assessed via 3-day diary.
Results: The sn-2 group had 46% less stool soap palmitate (P < 0.001) and softer stools than control (20% more mushy soft stools, P = 0.026; 50% fewer formed stools, P = 0.003). Addition of OF resulted in even fewer formed stools versus control (65% fewer for sn-2+3 g/L OF, 79% fewer for sn-2+5 g/L OF), with 5 g/L OF more closely resembling that of HM-fed infants. Both sn-2 (P < 0.05) and sn-2 with OF groups (P < 0.01) had significantly higher fecal bifidobacteria concentrations than control at week 8, not differing from HM-fed infants.
Conclusions: High sn-2-palmitate formulas led to reduced stool soaps, softer stools, and increased bifidobacteria, whereas addition of OF further improved stool consistency. Those modifications brought outcomes in formula-fed infants closer to that in HM-fed infants.