Infant and brain health benefits of whey protein underlined by experts at Singapore event.

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

The second Alpha Summit was held in Singapore. ©iStock
The second Alpha Summit was held in Singapore. ©iStock

Related tags: Milk, Obesity

The benefits of alpha-lacalbumin in providing effective protein in infant formula, and its role in increasing brain serotonin concentrations, were two of the academic highlights presented at the Alpha Summit in Singapore.

The event, organised by US dairy cooperative Agropur, brought together academics from across the globe who have studied bovine alpha-lactalbumin whey protein.

Professor of Pediatrics (Emeritus) at the University of Iowa, USA, Ekhard E. Ziegler discussed infant nutrition and protein for term infants and pre-term infants.

He said research has shown a link between childhood obesity and excessive protein intake, most likely from high levels of protein in formula milk during the first two years of life.

Baby formula contains higher levels of protein than breast milk, and it is now believed this may play a part in childhood obesity, he said.

But on the other hand, pre-term infants often receive less protein than they need, with lower intake potentially causing impaired cognitive development.

He suggested adding alpha-lactalbumin into infant formula provides an applicable solution for both of these problems.

Behavioral effects

It is claimed the amino acid profile of alpha-lactalbumin is closer to breast milk than any other protein source, helping to meet infants’ nutrient needs by providing high digestibility while also decreasing the total protein content so that it’s not excessive.

Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh, USA, John Fernstrom shared his knowledge on the role of dietary tryptophan (Trp) on serotonin synthesis and the potential to increase brain serotonin concentrations with alpha‐lactalbumin.

He said numerous studies have demonstrated serotonin synthesis relates to changes in Trp levels.

Both whey protein isolate and more significantly purified alpha‐lactalbumin have been shown to increase serum Trp and Trp:LNAA (large neutral amino acids) ratios. it has shown to increase serotonin with various significant behavioral effects across numerous human studies, he aaded.

While Alpha‐lactalbumin provides a dietary approach to influence serotonin activity, supplementation with the direct serotonin precursor 5‐HTP was not recommended, he added, due to rapid absorption by tissues peripheral to the brain including neural cells of the GI tract.

Agropur has a host of brands, including whey protein isolate product BiPro​. It had sales of US $5.9bn in 2015 and the cooperative has 3,367 members and 8,000 employees.

This was the second year the event was held, and the first time in Asia. In 2015 the conference was held in Idaho.

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