MFGM for adult nutrition: Fonterra / NZMP explores use for sports and stress management

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Fonterra / NZMP is exploring the use of MFGM in adult nutrition, with stress management as one of the applications studied. ©Getty Images
Fonterra / NZMP is exploring the use of MFGM in adult nutrition, with stress management as one of the applications studied. ©Getty Images

Related tags Fonterra NZMP Sports nutrition Cognitive function

Fonterra / NZMP is studying the use of Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) for application in adult nutrition, especially in the areas of stress management and sports performance.

There has been scientific evidence which shows that the complex lipids from MFGM has a number of health benefits.

MFGM has been used as an infant nutrition ingredient and NZMP is currently selling two such ingredients – the MFGM Lipid 100 and MFGM Lipid 70 – for brain development and cognition in infants.

Last year, the company said that MFGM could have applications beyond infant formula and nutrition​. It is now clearer that these applications will involve stress management and sports nutrition for adults.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Rolando Saltini, head of innovation at Fonterra’s Sports & Active Lifestyle business unit, said since the components in MFGM could reach the brain, it has the potential to provide an array of health benefits.

If these components can reach your brain, there must be a functionality that we can get out of consuming products that are high in MFGM,”​ he said, which prompted the company to conduct research in this direction.

One area is to look at how consuming MFGM can manage stress, improve cognitive and mental performance and there are already animal studies which have produced such evidence.

“The evidence opens up a lot of different applications, especially for the white-collar workers, where stress is one of the top health concerns.” 

Asked how consuming MFGM can help manage stress, he said that one hypothesis was that it could help to control and normalise the release of cortisol – the stress hormone.

“When we have cortisol response, some of the reactions that happen is also an increase of energy, it increases our alertness and that means we are ready to run away, but we may not be able to think well.

“Because we have used all the energy for running and not for thinking. With MFGM supplementation, you will still be alert, but am able to control the situation in a positive way.”

Physical performance

The other area that the company is exploring is the use of MFGM for boosting physical performance.

Saltini said that there has been scientific evidence which showed how MFGM could activate muscles, provide muscle strength, and flexibility, as well as improve reaction time. There are also evidence showing that it could provide anti-inflammatory effects for muscle recovery.

He added that the two applications were also in line with market trends, which showed that mental performance and active lifestyle nutrition were some of the topmost concerns amongst the industry and consumers.

In terms of research, the company is already running a number of human clinical trials globally using MFGM on adults.

Balance is key​ 

MFGM contains complex lipids, which refers to a complex blend of different types of lipids.

Asked which were the key components within MFGM that were responsible for bringing the above benefits, Saltini pointed out that it was more about balancing the different components, instead of relying on one particular component.

“We do not believe that it is about one specific component in particular that delivers the health benefit, it is more about the balance and combination of all these components.

“When we consume such products, all these components are metabolised and absorbed by our bodies and they trigger different pathways in our brains and reactions.”

Therefore, a key part of the research is to find out how a particular blend of components can deliver a particular type of health benefit, and also to identify the applications where the components could be preserved.

This is because some components may be sensitive to high heat and low pH levels and are in turn not suitable for application in bakery or yogurts.

In this regard, he said that the company had developed a ready-to-mix protein powder fortified with MFGM for adult nutrition and has been exploring other formats across the mainstream food products as well.

Healthier comfort food

On the other hand, since the company is exploring MFGM for stress management, it believes that there is scope to incorporate MFGM into 'comfort food'. This can also serves as a healthier alternative to junk foods. 

Some of the potential functional food formats include RTD beverage and muesli bars, Saltini said.

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