Protein allergy is more than a tolerance problem. It means that the infant’s immune system has responded in an abnormal way to the protein in his/her diet. This can happen with both milk-based and soy-based formulas, and it tends to run in families.
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It has long been known that the allergic properties of many proteins are decreased by enzymatic hydrolysis with digestive enzymes. Hydrolysis denatures the proteins and make them lose their tertiary structure, thus eliminating conformational epitopes (part of the molecule to which an antibody attaches itself) and some of the sequential epitopes. Molecular weight of peptides that can link to IgE antibodies is estimated to 1300 Da, or between 3000 and 5000 Da, depending on the studies (i.e. 12 to 50 amino acids).
Modern food technology now enables the production of tailor-made hydrolysates to meet specific requirements. Three types of formula can thus be distinguished, depending on the degree of hydrolysis and/or amino-acid content (even though there are no absolute criteria for this classification) .