A partnership between dairy processors Glanbia, Kerry, Carbery and Dairygold and academia, FHI has identified scores of bioactive ingredients from milk that could potentially be developed into functional food ingredients as its 'intelligent milk mining' initiative gathers pace.
Chief executive Jens Bleiel said: “We’re looking at dairy peptides that stimulate the release of gut hormones such as CCK, PYY and GLP-1, but we’re also looking at serotonin receptors in the brain and the whole hedonistic and reward system.You need to look at the whole system rather than just focusing on one aspect of it, and that requires a cocktail of ingredients.
“We have identified several combinations of peptides that we’re testing in mice trials, and we’re looking to follow these up with human intervention trials at the end of the year.”
He added: “A quarter of Americans are now classified as obese, and countries like the UK are not far behind.”
Calorie reduction vs weight loss
The trials would initially focus on demonstrating whether the ingredients could reduce calorie intake over a period of weeks, he said. “Short-term feeding trials over 24-hour periods are all very well, but what happens after three days? We will look at calorie intake over a six-to-eight week period.
“This is quite different from a weight loss study, however. I think you have to be very clear about what you are trying to demonstrate with satiety studies. We could look at weight loss ultimately, but that is much more complex and hard to prove; our focus is on helping people reduce their calorie intake over a sustained period.”
While satiety products had had limited success on the market to date, they did have commercial potential provided consumers’ expectations were managed and the application area was right, he said. “There is no golden bullet. It’s about subtle changes and helping people to eat less, but they still have to put the effort in. No one has really made it in this market yet, but that’s an opportunity.”
If the results of human trials were positive, the dairy companies within FHI would have first option to commercialize the ingredients, he said.
Given the high cost of human studies required to support health claims, companies would increasingly have to pool resources at the pre-competitive stage to fund research and subsequently compete through applications and marketing, said Bleiel.
“The companies may then individually fund their own human studies on the ingredients in specific applications, for example.”
Tackling muscle loss
Another fertile area of research for FHI was products for the healthy aging market, said Bleiel. “We have just started a human intervention study on the effect of a combination of dairy peptides, proteins and vitamins on the development and maintenance of lean tissue mass in healthy adults aged 50-70. We’re expecting intermediate results in December this year and then final results in mid to late 2012.”
He added: “This is a definite area of opportunity for the food industry; there are surprisingly few products on the market to tackle the issue of the progressive loss of muscle mass as we age.”
Blood glucose control
Work was also progressing on dairy peptides that could improve blood glucose control, said Bleiel, who had worked on DSM’s (now-defunct) blood-glucose dairy complex InsuVida when he used to work at DSM.
The product, which was claimed to partially restore impaired insulin function, was effective, but only in large quantities, he said.
“The concept was right but the problem was you needed quite a high amount of the hydrolysate, which was an issue in terms of cost, but also taste and stability.
“We will fractionate our hydrolysate much more and so we should be able to do more with less. I think this has a lot of potential and could complement our work on obesity as many people that are obese are pre-diabetic.”
While firms such as DSM were experts in using enzymes to chop up milk proteins into peptides, FHI is adopting a more systematic approach using bioinformatics, which increases the predictability of the potential functionality of the peptides.
The results are then used to guide traditional methods of enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation.