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Meet our pediatric nutrition scientist: Dr Pedro Prieto
I am Dr. Pedro Antonio Prieto— I am a biochemist and biochemical engineer specializing in pediatric and clinical nutrition. In my academic and industrial career, I focused on glycobiology— which integrates the biochemistry, molecular biology, and biotechnology of carbohydrates. For more than three decades, I researched carbohydrates of human milk, their effects on babies, their differences between milk samples, and technologies to make them available for pediatric and adult clinical nutrition. I also headed teams that designed, studied, and produced pediatric and adult nutritional products.
My wife and I will celebrate our 42nd anniversary this October— we have a 33-year-old daughter, a 37-year old son, and a 7-year old grandson. We both love music and cinema, but our most uplifting feeling is spending time with our kids and our grandson.
I am a big fan of college football and have a particular loyalty to Virginia Tech, where I completed my Ph.D.
Working with baby formula:
It is gratifying to be part of the design and development of infant formula brands that positively impact the lives of babies and their families. There is a significant scientific effort behind the scenes, but the main objective is to understand and serve the needs of mothers during exciting but complicated moments of their lives.
I enjoy working with the formula team at Bobbie because I am witnessing and learning from a different way to lead a pediatric nutrition business in terms of its service and contribution to society at this stage in my career. The leadership of Bobbie is flexible, caring, and kind. That is all the inspiration I need to love what I do.
I love that Bobbie is focused on the mother AND her baby!Dr Prieto
The five most asked questions for our pediatric nutrition scientist, Dr Pedro Prieto:
1- Are carbohydrates in infant formula bad?
Carbohydrates, including sugars such as lactose, are essential sources of energy for the newborn. Mother’s milk has up to 70 grams per liter of lactose. Lactose is not as sweet as other sugars such as sucrose (table sugar), glucose, or fructose. Because lactose is also in human milk, it is not given a negative connotation in pediatric nutrition. On the other hand, some studies suggest that feeding babies with sweeter carbohydrates predispose them to seek high-calorie foods later in life. In this context, sugars, as a class of nutrients, have been maligned as ingredients in infant formula.
2- Which fiber is better- soluble fiber or insoluble fiber?
Both types of fibers have a purpose and function. In mother’s milk, there is soluble fiber that reaches the baby’s large intestine and feeds beneficial bacteria. No other type of fiber is needed. In adults, the bulking action of insoluble fiber promotes regularity. Thus, for adults, soluble and insoluble fibers play a role in maintaining gastrointestinal health.
3- What is so important or unique about infant formula?
When I hear this question, I always ask for its context. Some parents believe that any type of milk could be a substitute for formula. The science of pediatric nutrition has been studying the needs of human newborns for more than a century. Infant formula is unique because it is designed to be the sole source of nutrition for an infant. There is no room for errors. That’s it. Infants get their nutrition from food that needs to be trusted without reservations.
4- Are toddler formulas useful? Why would you use toddler formula?
In short, it depends on the context. After one year, children are consuming foods other than breast milk or infant formula. Thus, a toddler formula would not be their sole source of nutrition— as is the case with regular infant formula. This distinction, while subtle, is important in the context of household schedules and available nutritional resources. Formulas for toddlers are sometimes used to transition to solid food diets assuring that essential nutrient, including vitamins, specific lipids, minerals, and proteins, are supplied amidst a variable expanding diet of solid foods.
Parents use toddler formulas for convenience while their children are exploring other foods. Toddlers need minimum amounts of nutrients such as iron and zinc, protein, and carbohydrates to sustain healthy growth; when the diet of a toddler includes these nutrients by design, a toddler formula is less useful than when the diet is only complementary to the formula. When parents of caregivers have the time to design menus that provide a balanced repertoire of macro and micronutrients toddler formulas are not as useful but are still good sources of nutrition.
5- How important is it for a baby formula to be certified as organic?
Reducing the use of substances such as insecticides, herbicides and certain food additives has an inherent positive connotation. Not using insecticides or using natural methods to control insect proliferation in cultivars, prevents contamination of ingredients and food products. It should be noted that the most important regulatory agencies such as the FDA in the United States and EFSA in Europe already regulate the presence of potential contaminants in foods and particularly in infant formula. On the other hand, the use of organic products is supported by a philosophical position regarding impact on the environment not only to prevent contamination but also to preserve resources for the future. This is a more strategic aim and is part of a different vision regarding sustainability. I am concerned also with fair trade that deals with intolerable working conditions for those who harvest or somehow participate in the collection or preparation of foods and food ingredients.
Pedro Prieto, MA, MS, PhD, is a pediatric nutrition scientist and Bobbie Medical Advisor.