Food for Health Ireland improves information on milk proteins and peptides

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Food for Health Ireland (FHI) has published a bioactive peptides database. Pic: ©iStock/Dr_Microbe
Food for Health Ireland (FHI) has published a bioactive peptides database. Pic: ©iStock/Dr_Microbe

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While milk has been known as an ‘excellent source of proteins, calcium and vitamin D’ and therefore ‘good for your muscles and bones’ for many years, other attributes of milk for health enhancing activity have not been given the same focus.

In recent years, however, specific protein fragments derived from milk, known as bioactive peptides, have shown through intensive research the potential to reduce the risk of onset of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and many more.

Now, researchers from Food for Health Ireland (FHI), based at the University of Limerick, have developed a database of peptides identified in humans following the ingestion of milk and dairy products. 

This database is available in their review paper, which was published in Trends in Food Science and Technology in 2016. 

Help for food industry

It lists the area in the body where the peptides were identified, their amino acid sequence and fragment details as well as their in vitro bioactivity.  It is a comprehensive beginning of a database, which will grow in content and value. 

This database will ultimately save the food industry considerable funds and time when researching ingredients with functional health benefits. 

FHI told DairyReporter the database should represent a key resource for companies interested in commercializing bioactive peptides and provides first-hand information about ingredients/products containing specific bioactive peptides.

It means companies won’t have to start from scratch with their own research, and can obtain an insightful frame of reference to save time and resources.

Preventive health benefits

The global food industry has invested, and continues to invest, heavily in research related to the identification of these bioactive peptides because they offer preventive health benefits through natural food ingredients.

Several databases are available in the public domain, which detail bioactive peptides that have been identified, their functionality and possible impact on the body.  However, these databases are generally not exhaustive. 

In many cases, information that can be found in the patent literature is not included in these databases.  If researchers and the food industry had access to a resource that collated all this information in one location, huge benefits would be realized in terms of resources being spent and time investment.

Increasing research efforts

Dr Alice Nongonierma, a senior FHI research scientist based at the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Limerick, said there is a need to intensify research efforts in understanding the fate of milk peptides in the body after the ingestion of milk and dairy products. 

“Such research will enable the identification of potentially bioavailable bioactive peptides.  These peptides could be used as health enhancing agents in the future,”​ Nongonierma said.

“To have this information together in one database would be invaluable for the food industry when selecting bioactive peptide sequences for designing human intervention studies and developing biofunctional ingredients/products.”

Practical uses

FHI told this website there are many examples of existing bioactive peptide sequences that have already been used for developing biofunctional ingredients and products.

One is an area of significant growth in Asia (Japan) where milk protein-derived bioactive tripeptides are on the market targeting blood pressure reduction.

Immune modulation is also an example of an area of bioactivity of interest whereby peptides have been sufficiently characterized, and these are included in the new FHI database.

Other areas of interest for bioactive peptides FHI is working on are glucose management and muscle growth, and FHI is working towards having sufficient data in the near future so that they could also be included in the database.

Source: Trends in Food Science and Technology 50 (2016)

Strategies for the discovery, identification and validation of milk protein-derived bioactive peptides.

Authors: Alice B. Nongonierma & Richard J. FitzGerald

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