Mimicking mother's milk
By Stacy Kish
In This Section
- Mimicking mother’s milk
- Three paths forward for sustainable palm oil May 2022
- Is it time to reconsider the role of saturated fats in the human diet? April 2022
- The continued struggle over biofuel feedstocks March 2022
- A new kind of plant breeding February 2022
- The new bio-based surfactant feedstock January 2022
- Lipid role in the immune system November/December 2021
- New essential dietary lipids? October 2021
- Gut Instincts September 2021
- Can computers make better plant-based foods? July/August 2021
- Poisson from a petri dish June 2021
- The latest additions to eco-friendly cleaning May 2021
- Preserving emulsions with plant-based antioxidants April 2021
- Developments in green surfactants for enhanced oil recovery March 2021
- Alternative base oils: a perspective March 2021
- The COVID-19 pandemic, one year later March 2021
- The green machine: commercializing microalgae products February 2021
- Bio-based (edible) oils: feedstock for lubricants of the future January 2021
- The latest on liposomes January 2021
- Fatty acids and athletic performance November/December 2020
- Where are lubricants headed November/December 2020
- New developments in vegetable oil materials science October 2020
- Agriculture at risk: preparing the oilseed industry for a warmer world September 2020
- Science highlights from a cancelled 2020 AM&E July/August 2020
- Managing your career in times of change June 2020
- Lipidomics comes of age May 2020
- Minimally processed oils April 2020
- The high-throughput frontier March 2020
- Nurturing innovation: how AOCS industries are fostering progress February 2020
- The trouble with studying omega-3s and the brain January 2020
- Understanding pulse anti-nutrients January 2020
- Digitizing manufacturing: how companies are using data to improve production November/December 2019
- Weaving together genetics, epigenetics, and the microbiome to optimize human nutrition October 2019
- Taking the cream out of ice cream September 2019
- Science highlights from St. Louis July/August 2019
- Biotechnology conquers consumer goods June 2019
- Cool characterization methods and where to find them May 2019
- Fermentation, the new protein supply chain April 2019
- Oleogels for drug delivery March 2019
- The complexity of clean-label cosmetics February 2019
- Rethinking plastic packaging January 2019
- Trends in synthetic and natural antioxidants for shelf life extension of meat and meat products November/December 2018
- The icing on the cake October 2018
- Enhancing oxidative stability and shelf life of frying oils with antioxidants September 2018
- Under arrest: investigating factors that govern partial coalescence July/August 2018
- Unconventional Oils June 2018
- Beauty from within May 2018
- Pulses rising April 2018
- Lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey March 2018
- Clean meat February 2018
- What makes your shortening suitable for fancy croissants, puff and Danish pastry? January 2018
- Strategic role of peanuts in sustainable global food security November/December 2017
- Science beyond borders: international student exchange October 2017
- Clean label: the next generation September 2017
- Science snapshots from Orlando July/August 2017
- Five new AOCS methods June 2017
- The whys and wherefores of life-cycle assessment May 2017
- China’s evolving edible oils industry April 2017
- The mysterious case of the arsenolipids March 2017
- Red palm oil February 2017
- The Highs and Lows of Cannabis Testing October 2016
- Chia: Superfood or superfad? January 2017
- Generational training divide November/December 2016
- Storage stability of roasted nuts and stabilization strategy using natural antioxidants September 2016
- Good vibrations: online and at-line monitoring of edible oils with vibrational spectroscopy July/August 2016
- Benchtop NMR spectroscopy for meat authentication June 2016
- Coconut oil boom May 2016
- Sink or swim: fish oil supplements and human health April 2016
- Pulsed electric field: groundbreaking technology for improving olive oil extraction March 2016
- Prescribing dietary fat: therapeutic uses of ketogenic diets February 2016
- Organogels of vegetable oil with plant wax January 2016
- The power of peptides November/December 2015
- Separation anxiety: membrane cleaning in the 21st century October 2015
- Using direct solid phase extraction to analyze persistent organic pollutants in oily food samples September 2015
- Big fat controversy: changing opinions about saturated fats June 2015
- Use of spent bleaching earth for economic and environmental benefit May 2015
- An introduction to cosmetic technology April 2015
- Food texture and nutrition: the changing roles of hydrocolloids and food fibers March 2015
- Scientists rank thousands of substances according to potential exposure level March 2015
- Clean smell does not always equal clean air February 2015
- Biotechnology: Using living systems to solve problems February 2015
- Flush to fuel January 2015
- 1970s fish oil study criticized January 2015
- Developing a high-performance, low-streak degreaser November/December 2014
- Detection, monitoring, and deleterious health effects of lipid oxidation November/December 2014
- Modified protein mimics taste and texture of fat October 2014
- Development of the first efficient membrane separations of cis fatty acids October 2014
- Regulatory updates on FSMA and combustible dust September 2014
- How enzymes are transforming manufacturing September 2014
- Two advances in biodiesel technology July/August 2014
- 2014 AOCS Annual Meeting & Expo July 2014
- Peanut genome sequenced June 2014
- A customized approach to frying oil June 2014
- Omics reveals subtle changes in carbon flux that lead to increased oil biosynthesis in oil palm May 2014
- Cannabis testing: a review of the current landscape May 2014
- Industrial hemp gaining traction April 2014
- Emulsions: making oil and water mix April 2014
- Lipid co-oxidation of proteins: One size does not fit all March 2014
- FSMA marches on March 2014
- Disruptive technology? Walmart’s “green” product line may signal a big change February 2014
- Pathways to novel chemicals February 2014
- Specialty lipids in pet nutrition January 2014
- EFSA releases preliminary report on occurrence of 3-MCPD in food January 2014
- Seven new biobased surfactant technologies November/December 2013
- Do oil color scales make you see red . . . or yellow? November/December 2013
- Shortage leads to green route to olefins October 2013
- Sesamol: a natural antioxidant for frying oil September 2013
- FSMA update September 2013
- Patent rights and biotech seeds July August 2013
- The other vitamin E July 2013
- Frac fever heats up June 2013
- Fat fight: Catch-22 for Western oleochemicals? June 2013
- Health and Nutrition News April 2013
- FDA asks for fees from industry to fund FSMA June 2013
- What does it take to start a biodiesel industry? April 2013
- What’s in a Claim? Would a Food Not Labeled “Natural” Taste as Sweet? March 2013
- Regulatory overview March 2013
- The preservative wars February 2013
- Plants producing DHA February 2013
- Swift response to paper on feeding GMO corn, glyphosate January 2013
- AOCS: supporting international standards January 2013
- TSCA and the regulation of renewable chemicals July August 2013
- trans Fatty acid content of foods in China January 2013
- A novel green catalytic process for biodiesel production from Jatropha November/December 2012
- The America Invents Act: Groundbreaking US patent law changes are here November/December 2012
- “Super Phos” esters: the key to higher-performance products November/December 2012
- Advances in field-portable mass spectrometers for on-site analytics October 2012
- EFSA sets upper intake level for LC-PUFA October 2012
- Malaysia: economic transformation advances oil palm industry September 2012
- High-oleic canola oils and their food applications September 2012
- Using enzymes to prepare biobased surfactants July/August 2012
- Oilseeds: at the center of food, water, and energy security July/August 2012
- Health & Nutrition News June 2012
- Hydrocolloids get personal June 2012
- The secrets of Belgian chocolate May 2012
- Plants “remember” drought, adapt May 2012
- The power of mass spectrometry in the detection of fraud April 2012
- Oil in biomass: a step-change for bioenergy production? April 2012
- The Future of LAB March 2012
- World supplies of rapeseed and canola likely to remain tight in the 2012/13 season March 2012
- Methods for differentiating recycled cooking oil needed in China February 2012
- Supercritical fluid-based extraction/processing: then and now February 2012
- Singapore: the place to be in 2012 February 2012
- The Food Safety Modernization Act and its relevance to the oilseed industry February 2012
- Oilseeds in Australia January 2012
- Hydrogen peroxide in home-care formulations November 2011
- A new generation of renewable fuels is on the horizon November 2011
- Omega-3 fatty acids: $13 billion global market October 2011
- Soy and breast cancer October 2011
- EU approves food labeling rules September 2011
- IOM panel recommends tripling vitamin D intake: Panel’s conservative approach receives criticism September 2011
- Self-assembly of lyotropic liquid crystals: from fundamentals to applications August 2011
- Sustainability watch July 2011
- Sustainability Watch July 2011
- Are algae really feasible as fuel? June 2011
- The trouble with crystal polymorphism June 2011
- Insect oils: Nutritional and industrial applications May 2011
- Reconstructing formulas April 2011
- US eggs now lower in cholesterol April 2011
- How to control eating behavior--in mice March 2011
- Maybe we don’t know beans March 2011
- Short- and long-term price forecasting for palm and lauric oils February 2011
- New 3-MCPD (glycidol ester) method February 2011
- Regulatory issues associated with the international oils & fats trade January 2011
- Point-counterpoint on UC Davis olive oil report January 2011
- Biomass--The next revolution in surfactants? December 2010
- One person’s response to a high omega-6 diet November 2010
- Crop residues as feedstock for renewable fuels November 2010
- Universal detectors for determination of lipids in biodiesel production October 2010
- New very long chain fatty acid seed oils produced through introduction of strategic genes into Brassica carinata October 2010
- Surfactants based on monounsaturated fatty acids for enhanced oil recovery September 2010
- Questioning the virginity of olive oils September 2010
- Dietary guidelines report released August 2010
- Keeping up with detergent chemistry August 2010
- News from the Expo floor July 2010
- Degumming revisited July 2010
- First high-GLA safflower oil on market June 2010
- AOCS 2.0 debuts June 2010
- Palm fatty acid distillate biodiesel: Next-generation palm biodiesel May 2010
- Palm oil pundit speaks May 2010
- What is unrefined, extra virgin cold-pressed avocado oil? April 2010
- The ultra-low-linolenic soybean market April 2010
- Dealing with the media: A cautionary tale March 2010
- Hempseed oil in a nutshell March 2010
- Carbon management 101: A conversation with Eric Jackson February 2010
- Giants of the Past: Hermann Pardun (1908-2009) February 2010
- Q&A with Bill Christie February 2010
- Update on Jatropha January 2010
- Unique properties of carbon dioxide-expanded lipids January 2010
- The market situation and political framework in Germany for biodiesel and vegetable oil December 2009
- Industrial oil crops-when will they finally deliver on their promise ? December 2009
- Chemically enhanced oil recovery stages a comeback November 2009
- Field-portable mass spectrometers for onsite analytics: What's next? October 2009
- To make biofuels, or not to make biofuels:That is the question. September 2009
- Melamine analysis at the forefront September 2009
- Global oil yields: Have we got it seriously wrong? August 2009
- Omega-3 fatty acid profiling and dietary forensics August 2009
- Oilseeds of the future part 3 July 2009
- The rise and fall of surfactants lore July 2009
- Oilseeds of the future: Part 2 June 2009
- Codex Alimentarius Commission update June 2009
- Raw material sources for the long-chain omega-3 market:Trends and sustainability. Part 3. May 2009
- Oilseeds of the future: Part 1 May 2009
- Chloroesters in foods: An emerging issue April 2009
- Raw material sources for the long-chain omega-3 market: Trends and sustainability. Part 2. April 2009
- Synthetic HDL created March 2009
- Raw material sources for the long-chain omega-3 market:Trends and sustainability. Part 1. March 2009
- A convenient way to increase legume intake February 2009
- Vitamin E’s safety controversy January 2009
- Universal mechanism of aging uncovered? January 2009
- The milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), which surrounds droplets of fat in breast milk, is a rich source of nutrients for infants, playing an integral role in brain and cognitive development. It also allows for the development of a robust immune system and healthy metabolism.
- Infant formula companies are exploring different techniques to enhance their product using components of MFGM to mimic the qualities and characteristics of breast milk. Clinical trial studies support the role enhanced formula play in an infant’s growth and development.
- Companies are also exploring how the MFGM can improve the texture, composition and bioavailability of nutrients in foods, including butter and whipped cream.
- Future work may explore the role of MFGM in reducing frailty and improving muscle growth in older adults as well as reduce the harm from toxins produced by foodborne pathogens.
“Molecules come embedded by nature in often complex, functional microstructures that we cannot see. Nutritional scientists aim to redesign some foods to protect nutrients and target them to perform specific functions in a way that may enhance human health,” said José Miguel Aguilera, emeritus professor of chemical and food engineering at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago in an interview with BBC Food (https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/food_matrix).
There may be no better example of this matrix effect than the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), a tri-layer membrane that surrounds droplets of fat in breast milk.
CHOCK-FULL OF HEALTHY COMPONENTS
Milk fat globules range in diameter from 0.2 to 15 mM, far smaller than the width of a human hair. The MFGM that encloses this droplet of fat is even thinner. The membrane consists of a complex array of phospholipids and proteins arranged in three tiers (see image). The inner membrane is a monolayer of proteins and polar lipids obtained from the endoplasmic reticulum. The outer membrane is a double layer consisting of proteins and polar lipids originating from epithelial cells in the mammary gland. Sandwiched in between is a sheet of triglycerides (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2020.108465).
Breast milk is the gold standard for infant nutrition, offering the best path forward for an infant’s growth and development. The MFGM perfectly encapsulates each milk fat droplet, preventing spoilage and aggregation. It also stabilizes the fat globule. The composition of the MFGM varies by lactation stage, season, fat globule size, maternal diet and even the collection method and time of day.
Despite the fact that breast milk promotes healthy growth and development, only a fraction of children worldwide receive this nutritional support throughout infancy. In the United States, less than a quarter of infants are breastfed after six months of age. Pre-term infants are at an even greater disadvantage, having also lost out on the growth and brain and lung development that occurs during the third trimester. Infant formulas provide an option for the sole or partial nutritional support for most infants during the first year of life, but infant formula is not a one-to-one replacement for breast milk.
Infant formula companies are working to address this nutrition gap and the market for this product is growing. The Global Infant Formula Oil and Fat Ingredients market size was valued at $5,309 million in 2020 (https://tinyurl.com/58kvm265). It is projected to increase to $5,650 million by 2027. The infant formula industry has been exploring how the different components of the MFGM can be used to create new lipid-based products that have similar properties as breast milk to ensure all children have the best start to their young lives.
REAPING THE BENEFITS OF THE MFGM
Infancy is a critical period for brain growth and development and early nutrition plays a key role in optimizing brain structure and function. While breast milk provides the most convenient form of nutrients to meet this need, infant formula enriched with bioactive nutrients provide a healthful and effective alternative. A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition provides the first evaluation of the long-term impact of this early nutritional intervention (https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.820224). The study enrolled infants and toddlers during the first 18-months of life. The children were then followed for six years to evaluate changes in their brain structures.
The study found infants fed formula enriched with MFGM, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFA) and synbiotics (a mixture of prebiotics and probiotics) had neurocognitive outcomes and brain development that were similar to breastfed children at six years of age. The children fed the enriched infant formula scored higher in terms of IQ, vocabulary, and attention compared to their breastfed peers.
In addition, the children who received the enriched formula had greater brain volume and higher cortical thickness compared to children fed the standard infant formula. The researchers noted these changes in brain structure are related to improved cognitive development.
This study was unable to identify which of the three components (MFGM, LC-PUFAs and synbiotics) in the study were responsible for the observed improvements or if it was the result of a synergistic combination of all three.
Beyond the brain, the MFGM supports gut health. The intestinal tract of infants is a blank slate that is colonized through environmental exposure. These bacterial colonies play a significant role in the immune system to protect the infant from infection. Breast milk has evolved to help colonize the gut of infants with beneficial bacteria. Animal studies show how the MFGM modulates immune activities, offering protection from foodborne pathogens. Further, these studies have shown that gangliosides, molecules within the MFGM, inhibit production of E. coli enterotoxin, as well as cholera toxin by strengthening the barrier properties along the intestinal tract.
The MFGM also contributes to a healthy metabolism. Unlike standard infant formula, the MFGM in breast milk is high in cholesterol, and breastfed infants have a higher concentration of cholesterol that levels off throughout childhood.
Over time, breastfed children have lower incidence of cardiovascular risk, which points to the important role MFGM may play in cholesterol metabolism. Clinical trial studies point to the impact of MFGM-enhanced formula on higher serum cholesterol (HDL cholesterol and homocysteine) and higher serum choline compared to infants fed the standard formula. These results are more in line with levels found in breastfed infants. The study points to how these differences affect infant metabolism and long-term health.
In recent decades, researchers have made progress creating better nutritional quality infant formula, and MFGM have played an integral role in these innovations. According to a 2017 study in the journal Nutrients, infant formula that incorporates the bioactive compounds found in MFGM may optimize the long-term health of the immune system and cognitive functioning of infants into childhood (https://doi.org/10.3390/nu9080817). Animal studies and human clinical trials support the role that MFGM play in cognitive and brain development.
The CLIMB (Complex Lipids In Mothers and Babies) study evaluated the outcomes of infants born to mothers who received complex milk lipids during pregnancy compared to those who received a standard maternal milk formulation (https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016637). The researchers found prenatal maternal supplementation of gangliosides may improve brain development in the fetus. The CLING clinical trial assessed whether an enriched infant formula supports brain development as the children grow compared to infants fed a standard formula (https://tinyurl.com/y336eura). The study found that MFGM supplementation in early life improves some measures of normal cognitive development in infants, including higher cognitive, language, motor, social emotional, and general adaptive scores.
“This is one of the biggest revolutions in infant formula over the last several years,” said Sandra Einerhand, founder and head of Einerhand Science & Innovation, a Dutch consultancy company that advises businesses on nutrition- and health-related questions (https://esi4u.nl/about/). “The MFGM market has not yet reached its full potential,” she says.
Most MFGM found in infant formula is obtained from either the whey or cream concentrates from cow milk, which has a similar nutritional profile to human breast milk; however, different separation techniques affect the overall MFGM concentration gathered. While more research is needed to confirm the best approach and source material for new products, many companies are now exploring how to incorporate whey or cream MFGM into enhanced infant formulas that more closely resemble the nutritional profile and properties of human breast milk.
The New Zealand infant formula company, Fonterra, is a pioneer in the MFGM market (https://www.fonterra.com). It has created a MFGM lipid supplement, called Surestart™ Lipid, from the whey and cream components of cow milk. Using MFGM from both components provides the company greater flexibility in the formulation of their products. The company has focused on the role of complex milk lipids, especially on milk gangliosides, which play an integral role in the cognitive development of infants. Surestart Lipid has been shown to support fetal brain composition and infant cognitive development in several clinical trials.
Arla Foods, another pioneer in MFGM products, has created an array of food products, including Lacprodan® (https://www.arlafoodsingredients.com). This series of infant formulas use a dry blend protein, which contains a unique protein and lipid profile, including lactoferrin, IgG, sialic acid, phospholipids, and gangliosides. The product has been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial mechanisms that support the colonization of the gut with healthy bacteria. Infants that are fed the enhanced formula have lower gut infections and reduced incidence of diarrhea episodes, which is particularly important for premature infants. Clinical studies have found that infants that have been fed formula supplemented with Lacprodan® MFGM-10 demonstrated improved neurodevelopment, improved behavior performance, and reduced stress-induced sensitivity (https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12061607). These infants showed changes in brain structure and higher serum cholesterol. This study was unable to determine the precise mechanism that leads to these benefits.
In the infant formula market space, Danone has created the product Nuturis® (https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114518001988). The enhanced formula contains large phospholipid-coated lipid droplets isolated from buttermilk and butter serums through micro and ultrafiltration. The droplets in Nuturis® are larger (3–5 mm) than typical fat droplets in infant formula (0.4 mm) and mimic the structure of lipids in human milk. The larger droplet size has been shown to promote fat digestion.
A randomized clinical study examined the benefits of the larger fat droplet size on infant development. The study examined the outcomes of breastfed infants compared to infants fed Nuturis® or standard infant formula (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01609634). It found the enhanced lipid structure in Nuturis® improved infant nutrition to support growth and body composition, which is more in line with the outcomes in breastfed infants.
THE FUTURE OF FOOD AND BEYOND
While the infant formula market may have the corner on MFGM, other industries are not far behind. Because MFGM contain both hydrophilic and hydrophobic components, it makes an excellent emulsifier to improve and texturize foods. Studies have found MFGM- and MFGM protein-based emulsions produced smaller droplets creating a liquid with a greater viscosity and improved stability. This approach offers the food industry a new way to enhance and transmit nutrients. For example, the bioavailability of beta carotene is low when it is found in an aqueous solution, but the bioavailability increases when beta carotene is contained in an emulsion.
Techniques to harvest the MFGM
In 2015, Australian researchers developed a new, faster technique to separate milk fat globules for industrial applications. The system uses two fully submersible plate transducers contained within a large rectangular reaction vessel that can hold up to two liters of milk. The separation process begins when one plate emits a one-or two-megahertz ultrasonic wave that passes through the milk and reflects off the second plate. As the sound wave moves through the milk, it separates and concentrates the fat portion into the cream that floats to the top of the tank, while the remaining skim sinks to the bottom of the tank. The process takes only 20 minutes and is faster than traditional methods like natural fat sedimentation and buoyancy processing, which typically take six hours.
In an article for Food Processing magazine, the study author Thomas Leong, an ultrasound engineer and a postdoctoral researcher from the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology at the Swinburne University of Technology, in Melbourne, Australia stated, “These streams can be further fractionated to obtain smaller and larger sized fat globules, which can be used to produce novel dairy products with enhanced properties.” Leong believes this process can create fat globules that can enhance the taste and texture of many products (https://tinyurl.com/ypx5bwwt).
Bhesh Bhandari, professor at The University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, in St. Lucia, Australia is pioneering techniques to create innovative dairy products by focusing on fat globule size. According to Bhandari, adjusting the size of fat globules in milk can produce different structures and textures in food.
Bhandari and his team are using existing dairy equipment with only minor modifications to prepare nano-emulsions, a technique developed by the pharmaceutical industry. The new process can manufacture functional cream powder to make whippable low fat cream that can be recombined with liquid milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter to make low fat butter and fat spreads.
“By tuning system parameters according to acoustic fundamentals, the technique can be used to specifically select milk fat globules of different sizes in the collected fractions, achieving fractionation outcomes desired for a particular dairy product,” said Bhandari, in a 2017 press release (https://tinyurl.com/2p8mar6m). “Our latest findings reveal that small fat globules impart an amazing stability to cream and give cold butter softer texture and improved spreadability.”
The MFGM also offer opportunities in the medical nutrition space as a medical food or as an oral nutritional supplement. Studies in healthy older adults suggest this product could strengthen muscle to prevent frailty. According to Einerhand, MFGM supplementation combined with regular exercise has been shown to improve skeletal muscle strength. Taking the data together, MFGM administration in combatting muscle loss and function at older age provides an interesting avenue for future studies. Einerhand says, the research completed to date have been small and used low doses of MFGM. In addition, the studies have produced conflicting and inconsistent results.
The role of MFGM in strengthening the barrier properties along the intestinal tract has also piqued research interest. The protective nature of MFGM against pathogens is particularly interesting after two long years of the pandemic. The protective property offered by MFGM provides an enticing path of study not only against viral agents, but also common bacterial pathogens, like Clostridium difficile and E. coli. MFGM research provides a ripe area of exploration for new products to reduce the incidence of respiratory or diarrhea-related illnesses in older adults or during extended hospital stays.
“MFGM lipid-containing products may have beneficial effects in adults, but clinical evidence is still quite preliminary,” said Einerhand. “The science needs to continue to evolve.”
About the Author
Stacy Kish is a freelance science writer. She has worked for 15 years to bring engaging stories about an array of science topics to a general audience. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.