Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, he said: "There's certainly potential for MFGM to be used in products besides infant formula.
"We want to look further into what other benefits it might have for infants, and what other effects it might have for cognitive development and performance at other life stages, including the other end of life.
"We're just starting to look at how it may be able to protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline, including memory issues. That's something we're very keen on exploring, and we are now in the planning stages of this research — we aim to start the clinical trial next year."
He added that so far, most of NZMP's work on MFGM had revolved around its lipid components, such as gangliosides and phospholipids. Now, however, the company has turned its attention to the protein components of MFGM.
"In addition to its lipid components, we know MFGM contains many interesting proteins as well. We've found our MFGM products to have a very similar protein profile to that found in breastmilk, and we are exploring its potential for use in product formats besides formula milk," said Dekker.
Facts behind the fat
The ingredients, which are designed to mimic naturally occurring MFGM in human breastmilk, have been extensively studied in clinical trials in several countries.
These include two clinical studies in China, which investigated the impact of additional MFGM gangliosides and phospholipids during pregnancy and infancy.
Both studies assessed MFGM Lipid 100's effects on cognitive development in early life, and found that generally healthy infants supplemented with MFGM in their first year of life displayed statistically significant improvements in this area.
The researchers also reported that MFGM supplementation improved the infants' General Adaptive Behaviour Scores, based on a combination of functions that included social and motor skills, self-direction, communication and self-care.
The ingredient was also a finalist at last year's inaugural NutraIngredients-Asia Awards.
Soon after developing MFGM Lipid 100, NZMP launched MFGM Lipid 70, which contains complex lipids to said to be able to support brain development, cognition and visual function in infants.
The ingredient is also touted as having protective effects against gastrointestinal infections, as well as providing support for digestive health via the maturation and integrity of the gut.
Dekker said, "Both these ingredients were made (from bovine milk) to provide a concentrated dose of ingredients that are naturally found in breastmilk.
"We know from human studies that MFGM is a really important component in infant nutrition, and it's taken some time for us to produce ingredients that are affordable but will still provide the appropriate quantity of MFGM you would need in infant formula.
"They're both quite similar in terms of the concentration of MFGM, though Lipid 100 is higher in lactose and Lipid 70 is higher in protein, which offers manufacturers greater options in the formulation of infant formula products.
"A pilot study in Geneva a few years ago was one of the first to identify MFGM's role in cognition, and we followed up with a clinical trial that's now being written for publication. One year on, we are still seeing improvements in cognitive development in the study participants."
Cow's milk is known to have one of the closest phospoholipid profiles to human breastmilk, and is the only alternative source of gangliosides.
More studies, more markets
Dekker revealed that NZMP is keen on conducting more studies, especially since regulatory authorities in their the firm's target markets typically require at least two clinical trials to support any ingredient being registered for use in finished products.
"We're very keen to provide the assurance that MFGM Lipid 100 and Lipid 70 are well studied ingredients, and we definitely want to market these ingredients in China and South East Asia, which are very important markets for us.
"Of course, we have to make sure we can provide the relevant information to support our products before we can bring them to these markets, which is why the research is ongoing and more trials are being planned."