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Phosphatidylserine: A well-studied cognitive solution for the dairy industry
Itay Shafat, PhD, IFF Health unit
The dairy industry has always been perceived as supplying more than simple, one dimensional food items. From providing high quality protein, being a great source for calcium and other nutrients, dairy products always threaded on the border between being food and being functional food. Over the years, dairy products have become vehicles of nourishment beyond that of milk, as dairy products are consumed by all populations, therefore allowing population-wide fortification and supplementation of important food ingredients missing in the daily diet. Thus, dairy products enriched with probiotics to support gut health, with plant sterols or omega-3 to protect the heart, fibers, vitamins and minerals for general health – all have become increasingly popular. One area of human health that is not as common, and has been somewhat neglected, is brain health.
Brain health is not unique to a specific population, and is shared by children, through their parents who aim to allow their children optimal development, to the elderly who worry about cognitive decline. Global trends also support the need to focus on brain health. It is well known that the global population is aging, numbers of 60plus year olds are expected to double in the next decades, and nowhere else more so than in Europe. In Italy, for example, more than 40% of the population will be over 60 years of age by the year 2050, and France, Germany and the UK are not far behind. Since this population is highly aware of the need to keep its cognitive function in top shape, it is expected that an increasing attention to brain health will accompany this increase in life expectancy. As a matter of fact, baby boomers have noted mental well-being as being first when it comes to the meaning of good health.
Phosphatidylserine (PS for short) is a structural component of cell membranes, which can be found in all biological membranes. The human body contains about 30g of phosphatidylserine, close to half (~13 g) of which is found in the brain. Phosphatidylserine is also found in the human diet, including in milk products (as PS is part of the milk fat globule membrane), though levels of consumption are usually low. Phosphatidylserine has been extensively studied as an ingredient for cognitive support, with these studies demonstrating that oral administration of PS is safe and can improve several cognitive functions. One finding from these studies is that daily ingestion of PS leads to a lasting effect, even three months after supplementation has been terminated (figure below, Kato-Kataoka et al 2020).
The physical traits of PS make it especially suitable to add to dairy products. For one, it has no scent or flavor that may cause organoleptic issues when added to dairy products. Second, the molecule is amphiphilic, i.e. it is partly water soluble and partly lipid soluble, a characteristic shared by emulsifiers and especially suitable to the oil-in-water emulsion that is milk. Lastly, PS is stable through much of the processes used in dairy products, such as homogenization, pasteurization (but not for ultra-high temperature) or acidification.
Sharp●PS is a high-quality PS from IFF, Health unit. The ingredient originates from non-GMO soy and exists in several grades, including some that were developed especially for inclusion in dairy products. Sharp●PS is regulated in all the main markets, including Europe, the US and China, and in many other territories as well. Sharp●PS is allowed for the "general population" (i.e., all population apart from infant nutrition). In several countries, such as the US, Australia, Canada and South Korea, claims for PS in general, and for Sharp●PS particularly, exist, reflecting the benefit of the ingredient to cognitive function and brain health.
Through our Health Concepts Lab, a specialized unit at IFF that develops applications where health ingredients are added to food matrices in a stable and tasty way, we have already developed several concepts that can be used by the dairy industry.
As brain health becomes trendier, and as functional products increase in numbers and market share, Sharp●PS can be the perfect partner for innovation and differentiation.