Functional Fortress
by Lori Dahm
Dairy component research continues to build a strong foundation.
The area of dairy ingredient research continues to charter new territory as the latest discoveries uncover new functionalities that dairy components yield, as well as continued documentation of the positive impact that dairy products can deliver in the area of weight management and nutrition.
Dairy Field spoke to two of the industry’s leading researchers to tap into some of the latest research discoveries with regard to dairy components, as well as perspectives on how dairy manufacturers and dairy ingredient suppliers can focus product development efforts to capitalize upon the emerging science.
The dialogue that follows is with Dr. Phil Tong, professor at California Polytechnic State University and Director of the Dairy Products Technology Center, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; and Dr. Eric Bastian, director of research and development at Glanbia Foods Inc., Twin Falls, Idaho. The Dairy Council of California helped to arrange this discussion.
Dairy Field: What is the latest research that corroborates the benefits of whole dairy products as functional foods in regard to weight management and nutrition?
Phil Tong: When we talk about weight management, there is really a growing body of evidence that has been generated over the last five years that supports the benefits of dairy products’ role in weight management. The National Dairy Council has provided an excellent review of this information ( Initially, it was about calcium’s ability to burn fat and build lean body mass. Now we have made the observation that when consumed in lowfat dairy products like skim milk, we are seeing a greater effect, but we need more scientific research to support the idea that a specific component of milk is important for weight management.
In other health-related topics with regard to dairy products, one important study comes to mind, called the DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). In this study they fed subjects various products and isolated dairy components, calcium alone and calcium coming from a whole dairy product. When consuming calcium in dairy products, the reduction in blood pressure was greater than calcium alone. Because hypertension is a key risk factor in cardiovascular heart disease, this work, along with subsequent studies, support the positive benefits of dairy foods in lowering blood pressure.
Eric Bastian: We’ve done some work within Glanbia on a product called Prolibra for weight management, and that particular product has functioned well in a couple of clinical studies. With study subjects who did not reduce calories, and were overweight and obese, we were able to find a shift in their body composition. We used a technique called Dexascan to get at their muscle mass and fat mass in their body, and over a course of 16 weeks we were able to document about a 5 percent decrease in fat and a maintenance of lean mass during that time. And again, they were not reducing calories so you wouldn’t expect a weight loss in this kind of scenario.
Dr. [Michael] Zemel [of the University of Tennessee] as well has a publication coming out — he mentioned it in one of his review articles — that he had done a similar study with data that was almost identical to ours, realizing a 5 percent decrease in body fat with a non-calorie changing population. So that is something that I think is new in that whole area.
DF: How should manufacturers and dairy processors continue to focus their product development efforts to create dairy foods that can be positioned as functional and health enhancing?
Tong: That’s a big challenge for the dairy processors. They may need to maintain greater manufacturing flexibility, which is not the way we have traditionally run dairy plants. We like to run dairy plants as large-volume, high-efficiency operations, and when we achieve that sometimes we sacrifice greater flexibility. Flexibility and maximizing plant efficiency in high throughput operations don’t always go hand in hand. The challenge for dairy processors in the future is to design efficient processes that are competitive, and yet be able to maximize revenue out of that capital investment and adopt new changing technologies to capitalize on new markets that might fit the new nutrition trends.
For example, how can a milk powder plant have enough flexibility to do shorter, smaller runs to make customized dairy ingredients and still have economic efficiency and profitability to pay off the investment in capital? The real challenge for our processor is to start thinking a little differently about how they can get a return on their investment, and get that return in a shorter period. Rather than saying I’m going to build this humongous new plant and over 30 years I’m going to make this amount of money, perhaps they might say, OK, I am going to build this process line and run this process line in my plant for a product life cycle that is much shorter, maybe a five-year product life cycle. I have to get my return out of a shorter product life cycle and then I am going to recapitalize so that I can move on to the next new product which will hopefully have even great profitability. That will be an interesting challenge for our dairy processors.
Also, I think manufacturers must keep up with the science that is evolving and work with the people who are generating the science — what might be called “technology-mining.” That means going out there, seeing the science and meeting with the scientists to figure out how to match that technology that is being generated to some consumer need to get a practical return out of the science.
This can only happen when manufacturers regularly participate in working with the science providers and the technology providers, rather than calling them only when they need them, because then they will miss opportunity. The opportunities are going to be shorter, and the response time has to be faster. And that can only happen if you are clued in early in the process, which is a little different than how some have operated.
DF: As a dairy ingredient manufacturer, how are you focusing product development efforts to create dairy ingredients that are functional and health enhancing?
Bastian: Our efforts started four years ago, when we pulled all of the science that we could find on dairy and on dairy components that are linked to health. We put together a matrix indicating which components affected which areas, and we decided that there were four or five areas where we could have a strong opportunity in the marketplace. One of those areas was in weight and weight management, so we have put significant resources after that. Additionally, we felt that bone health was certainly a platform for delivering beneficial effects from dairy.
Another area we can play strongly in from the dairy component point of view is the whole area of immunity. There is so much out there on immunity it is amazing. If you look at proteins like lactoferrin, we have loads of studies published in the last 10 years about lactoferrin and immunity. A lot of people fortifying foods with lactoferrin are fortifying at a very high level. I’m aware of a yogurt in Japan that has 200 mg of lactoferrin in it. But if you dig into research, it shows that lactoferrin for immune function has an optimal level right around 10 to 20 mg a day. So if lactoferrin costs 35 cents a gram, for just under a penny you could have a dose of lactoferrin that would be effective.
Also with immunity, you have things like Glyco-macropeptide. There is a particular group in Japan that has published about six manuscripts showing how GMP can have an impact on immunity. We also have a number of studies that show that CLA can also have an impact on immunity. So again, there are a lot of different ways to go at this immunity benefit. To isolate something like lactoferrin is one way, but food and supplement manufacturers are concerned about price. If we can even double or triple the amount, we don’t need to go to 99 percent purity to get an enhancement and we would have a product that would be priced quite favorably and deliver health benefits at the same time.
Now, while we are trying to push from a science base on these components, we also want to have a market pull. It is a dual concept: There is a pull from market and push from the science base to get these things done and delivered. For example, there is a lot of science demonstrating effectiveness of calcium in lowering blood pressure, but the market has not yet developed in that area. I think it will, but there is always a timing element to these things and I think with some of these technologies we are ahead of the market.
It could be one of two things: It could be that consumers aren’t aware of their blood pressure status in their coronary heart disease risk. Or they are aware, but they don’t look to foods and supplements to assist in that, they got to the doctor and start taking a drug. So there may need to be a mind shift that needs to occur before we can really open up those markets.
DF: What are some of the latest and most important research discoveries with regard to dairy components such as whey protein, alpha-actalbumin, GMP, etc.?
Tong: Certainly the information on whey protein and the role of branch chain amino acids and its value in terms of maintaining lean body mass and fostering muscle development… in particular amino acids like Luecine and isoleucine, branch chain amino acids, which are very desirable in terms of maintaining lean body mass.
The dairy industry in particular wrestles with whey, because there are a lot of health messages they would like to communicate which are centered around whey protein, or fractions from whey, and unfortunately most people don’t have much of a clue as to what whey is. So we have a long road ahead of us in terms of trying to build some understanding.
In the probiotics area, we have developed our ability to look at the different lactic acid bacteria and to gain a better understanding of their role in health. We can trace their location during digestion, whether there is a colonization, and whether they really do modify the gut microflora. The other development is that they can now get the right probiotic organisms because they can type them better.
Bastian: We know that branch chain amino acids help to maintain and build muscle mass. Now if we think about this in a broader sense, we have huge issues with sarcopenia, which is age-related loss of muscle loss. These branch chain amino acids can have an impact in all these areas, sports nutrition, weight management and sarcopenia. So to be able to maintain some muscle mass as we get older will be very critical.
In the realm of stress and sleep, we are finding alpha-lactlbumin promoted for its tryptophan content. Tryptophan is an amino acid that can have an impact on some of the brain hormones and chemicals that signal sleep and reduced stress. Also, there are peptides that have an effect on stress from a totally different mechanism not related tryptophan. One new product is an alpha S2 casein peptide, that is one of the more minor casein fractions in milk, and it claims an anti-stress effect.
Another product in Europe is night milk. Cows produce different levels of the compound melatonin in the day versus at night, so the morning milk is segregated from the evening milk to separate the higher melatonin milk from the lower melatonin milk. These products help people with sleep disorders because of the higher melatonin content.