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How does sn-2 palmitate impact bone health?

Date: Friday, Aug 14, 2020

During the early years, a child undergoes incredible growth like no other period in his lifetime. It is during childhood when one’s bones grow most rapidly. Moreover, the bone mass attained in childhood is an important determinant of lifelong skeletal health. It is therefore vital to ensure proper nutrition in order to build strong bones.

It is no doubt that human milk is the liquid gold that meets a baby’s every need. Scientists have long established that breast fed children are able to better absorb calcium when compared to those who are formula-fed. Discussing the components of breastmilk would be an enormous task with numerous evidences. However, there is one component that would be of interest in terms of enhancing bone health: sn-2 palmitate.

A study conducted in the late 1990s showed higher bone mass in children who had sn-2 palmitate-enriched formula after 12 weeks of feeding when compared with those who received standard formula.1 Compelling evidence from recent studies showed that the consumption of formula milk with higher sn-2 palmitate has led to significantly higher measures of bone strength in children, compared with those who consume standard formula (which often has lower sn-2 palmitate).1-3

It is important to understand how sn-2 palmitate works beautifully to enhance calcium absorption for strong bones.

Fatty acids, such as palmitic acids, that are in sn-2 position – what we call sn-2 palmitate – are readily absorbed and do not create calcium soaps in the intestine.4,5 Please see the illustration below.

How does sn-2 palmitate impact bone health thumb

However, palmitic acids in sn-1 and sn-3 positions, such as those often found in standard formula milk, cut from the fat molecule during digestion; these “free” fatty acids readily bind with calcium in the intestine, forming insoluble substances that are undigestible and eventually excreted in the stools. This causes a substantial loss of calcium, and worse, reduces the bone density, which can then negatively affect bone strength.1,2


  • 1. Kennedy K, Fewtrell MS, Morley R, et al. Double-blind, randomized trial of a synthetic triacylglycerol in formula-fed term infants: effects on stool biochemistry, stool characteristics, and bone mineralization. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(5):920–927.
  • 2. Litmanovitz I, Davidson K, Eliakim A, et al. High Beta-palmitate formula and bone strength in term infants: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial. Calcif Tissue Int. 2013;92(1):35–41.
  • 3. Béghin L, Marchandise X, Lien E, et al. Growth, stool consistency and bone mineral content in healthy term infants fed sn-2-palmitate-enriched starter infant formula: A randomized, double-blind, multicentre clinical trial. Clin Nutr. 2019;38(3):1023–1030.
  • 4. Koletzko B, et al. Physiological aspects of human milk lipids and implications for infant feeding: a workshop report. Acta Paediatr. 2011;100(11):1405–1415.
  • 5. Mu H, Høy CE. The digestion of dietary triacylglycerols. Prog Lipid Res. 2004;43(2):105–133.


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