Some positive health claims made by formula milk companies are not well-supported by the research, according to the study.
Among them are assertions that formula milk can strengthen the immune system and improve brain, eye, and nervous system development.
According to scientists from Imperial College London, marketing regulations need to be tightened to stop the use of such claims.
They examined 757 products from 15 different countries for their study, which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Products from a variety of high, middle, and low income countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and the US, were examined by Dr. Ka Yan Cheung and Loukia Petrou between 2020 and 2022.
"The wide variety of health and nutritional claims made by infant formula products are frequently not supported by scientific references," they claimed.
"When they are, the evidence is frequently deficient and skewed. ".
Dr. Cheung and Ms. Petrou discovered that while each formula product advertised an average of one health or nutritional claim, only 56% of these claims were supported by clinical trials. The remaining pieces were reviews, essays, or research involving animals.
The BMJ study also noted that almost 90% of the clinical trials cited as supporting data had some funding from the baby formula industry or were otherwise associated with it.
There is a worry that exaggerating formula milk's nutritional and health benefits could detract from breastfeeding by obscuring its advantages.
Unicef reports that breastfeeding rates in the UK are among the lowest in the world.
According to the researchers' findings, a revised regulatory framework for breast milk substitutes is needed in order to better protect consumers and prevent the negative effects of such products' aggressive marketing.