Mother feeding baby formula milk

Find out more about how data is used in research

Whether or not to use formula milk, and which one to use, is a decision that many parents and caregivers struggle with. There is conflicting advice and many formulas make claims that they are enriched with nutrients, which can ‘promote cognitive development’.

However, recent research has linked school data to past clinical trial results, with interesting findings. The research confirmed that babies who were given nutritionally modified formula milk achieved the same results in Maths and English as children who were fed standard formula milk.

What was done?  

Research was carried out in 2021, by scientists from UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOS ICH) and the UCL Institute of Education’s Social Research Institute. They analysed data from clinical trials conducted between 1993 and 2001, which included children being fed on standard or modified formula. Two types of modified formula were involved in addition to the standard formula:  

  • Formula enriched with a component also found in breast milk that has a role in brain development 
  • Follow-on formula with high iron content    

The researchers then linked the formula trial data to the children’s school results years later. 

What did they find?  

Gay couple formula feed their babyThe research showed no link between babies given modified formula, in comparison to standard formula, and their later childhood school performance.  

  • When the children reached 11 years old, the study found that those who had been given modified formula did not score any higher in English or Maths.  
  • There was no differences in eligibility for special education support, based on what formula children had received when they were a baby. 
  • GCSE scores were also not affected by the different types of formula.  

This study is a great example of how data from past research can be used together with modern data to help parents make the best decision for their children’s futures. 

Read more about this study on UCL’s website.

Modified formula milk not linked to better academic performance

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