PKU is a birth defect that inhibits the body from digesting the amino acid phenylalanine.
“GMP is a peptide originally part of the casing molecule and during the cheesemaking process it gets released and it ends as a small piece in whey protein and it becomes soluble,” Anand Rao, vice president of research and development for Agropur Ingredients, told DairyReporter.
“GMP, unlike other protein molecules, is devoid of three amino acids especially phenylalanine.”
The result is a light-colored, mild-tasting, free-flowing powder that can be used in functional foods and beverages, and dietary supplements.
Agropur’s GMP received the Breakthrough Award for Dairy Ingredient Innovation at American Dairy Products Institute's (ADPI) annual meeting in Chicago.
PKU dietary tool
For a person with normal metabolism, phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that can be easily digested and metabolized, according to Rao.
However, for someone with PKU, which affects one in every 10,000-20,000 births, dietary phenylalanine cannot be metabolized in a normal fashion because of a missing enzyme. If someone with PKU does ingest phenylalanine it can become neurotoxic and potentially fatal, Rao explained.
“What that means for a child is basically malnutrition, because all proteins have phenylalanine except GMP,” Rao said.
Until GMP, there was no other alternative protein for those with PKU; the only ingredient that existed was a co-mingled amino-acid blend, according to Rao.
“Now they have an alternative and that’s the reason we need to get it to the highest purity that we can,” he said.
There are also additional health benefits of GMP including remineralization for use in dental hygiene products like toothpaste and mouthwash.
“It can put calcium back on to your tooth enamel,” Rao said. “There is also some evidence that suggests GMP can help put calcium back on bones to help treat osteoporosis.”
There is also a possibility that GMP could also have antiviral properties according to some studies, Rao added.
"To our knowledge, only one other dairy ingredient company manufactures a whey protein concentrate with 60% GMP," Rao said. "GMP extends our protein's reach to pharmaceutical applications."