Breastmilk-mimicking formula supports babies' cognitive development: NZMP China findings

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

NZMP's new SureStart MFGM Lipid100 (also called NUELIPID) is used to enrich some of its ANMUM formulations sold in Asia.
NZMP's new SureStart MFGM Lipid100 (also called NUELIPID) is used to enrich some of its ANMUM formulations sold in Asia.
Milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) supplementation during pregnancy and infancy enhances cognitive development in children at 12 months of age, according to recent research by NZMP.

Its new SureStart MFGM Lipid100 (also called NUELIPID), used to enrich some of its ANMUM formulations sold in Asia, is being touted as added support for mothers, infants and toddlers.

MFGM is a structure surrounding milk fat globule secreted in breastmilk. It consists mainly of proteins and lipids, among which are numerous bioactive compounds said to have functional purposes in the brain and gut.

In NUELIPID, NZMP uses two of these compounds, gangliosides and phospholipids. The first is crucial for neuronal cell outgrowths, connecting brain cells to one another, and improving memory function. The second helps to maintain the brain’s structural integrity, and boost overall cognitive performance.

Fat hope

NZMP conducted the CLING study on the impact of MFGM-enriched formula on brain development in healthy children at six and 12 months of age, and compared it to that of a standard infant formula. In addition, immunity and gut maturity in the first year of life were also assessed.

Another trial, called the CLIMB study, examined the effects of prenatal MFGM supplementation in the form of maternal milk enriched with NUELIPID, compared with those of regular milk.

Both trials were conducted in Chongqing, China.

The results were presented by Fonterra's Dr Sophie Gallier and Chongqing University's Dr Xia Yin-Yin at the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) recently.

While the full papers will not be published until next year, NutraIngredients-Asia​ spoke to another researcher, Dr Angela Rowan, who shared some key details of the research.

She said, "The study was carried out in China at a number of different hospitals. Mothers who had given birth at these hospitals and who chose to formula-feed a few weeks after delivering  — for a number of reasons — had the option of signing up for the trial. We eventually enrolled over 400 babies altogether, and tracked their progress from about one month to 12 months old.

"We found that the babies given NUELIPID-enriched formula showed improvement in brain development, according to the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development. This covered not just cognitive function, but also motor, emotional, social and language skills."

Furthermore, the CLIMB study assessed 1,500 pregnant women from their first trimester until delivery, and noted that those supplemented with the MFGM-enriched formula had higher ganglioside levels in their blood, indicating increased support for foetal brain development.

At the same time, the babies delivered by the supplemented mothers were all generally healthy.

Component competence

While some other infant nutrition manufacturers have developed formula containing ingredients found in breastmilk, such as oligosaccharides, NZMP claims to be the first to use phospholipids and gangliosides in its formulation.

Rowen said, "We wanted to mimic as closely as possible the benefits children get from breastmilk, and include components that had been shown in previous studies to improve markers of brain development in children both during and after pregnancy.

"What we know is that these components are high in breastmilk, but relatively low in standard infant formula. Our hypothesis was that only with an infant formula that more closely matched the composition of breastmilk would we see the benefit of gangliosides and phospholipids on cognitive development, and it worked."

She added: "This is the first time a company has focused on these two components, and the ANMUM formulations (enriched with NUELIPID) also contain prebiotics and probiotics.

"While several other companies have developed infant formula with ingredients found in breast milk, they have not focused on gangliosides or phospholipids. NZMP's formula, like breastmilk, is high in these two components."

Currently, the enriched ANMUM formulation is available in a number of existing ANMUM markets in Asia, namely China (its main market), Malaysia and Vietnam.

NZMP revealed, however, that it intended to make the SureStart MFGM Lipid 100 ingredient available globally.

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