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Promoting Mental Fitness with Milk Phospholipids
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Promoting Mental Fitness with Milk Phospholipids

Constant high stress has impaired mental well-being and fitness, as many can attest. But there is a new natural, wholesome way to restore it.

Consumers more than ever view their well-being more holistically, including body, mind and spirit. This shift has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in attention to mental health during the past couple of years. In Euromonitor’s Health and Nutrition Survey 2020, respondents selected “mental well-being” as the top criteria for being healthy, surpassing the more traditional physical aspects such as weight management.

Although the pandemic has escalated stress levels, hectic modern lifestyles with the pressures from work, family, finances and health were already taking their toll on well-being, especially in Millennials, according to Euromonitor. There has been an astonishing 355% increase in searches for “brain food” on Google (Google Trends data 2019 vs 2020).

Stress and anxiety tend to cause overeating as a way to quell the negative feelings and ease tension. Overeating tends to be a frenetic activity that leads to the obvious weight gain, but even more impaired mood as the guilt for the overconsumption sets in. Stressors encourage the release of cortisol, a hormone that triggers cravings for indulgent foods.

Therefore, this is the perfect time to introduce consumer products with NZMP Milk Phospholipids on the global active lifestyle market.


Phospholipids are an essential component of all cell membranes within the body, especially the brain. Phospholipids are naturally occurring in a wide range of plant and animal food sources and are especially abundant in mammalian milk. Bovine milk contains a broader range of phospholipids compared to non-mammalian milk sources.

Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) is a significant compound in mammalian milk, comprising about 1% of the total fat content. The fat portion of bovine milk has a unique formation, consisting of small globules stabilized by a thin membrane. The milk fat globule is a complex structure centered by triacylglycerol surrounded by a membrane that is bountifully comprised of proteins, phospholipids (such as phosphotidylserine), sphingomyelin, gangliosides and cerebrosides.

MFGM and its components have shown numerous benefits that indicate that products fortified with milk phospholipids may help support mood and mental wellness. For example, consumption of the phospholipid phosphatidylserine has been shown to result in a more relaxed response to stress1​, potentially through modulating cortisol availability2​. Some researchers have called these effects ‘stress-buffering’.3​ Other MFGM research showed that phosphatidylserine consumption improved endocrine responses to stress.4

Until recently, MFGM-containing products were not available on the market, however, applying modern processing technologies routinely used in the production of dairy ingredients allows Fonterra to produce products with a much higher concentration of MFGM components than found in standard milk, enabling the fortification of foods and drinks with milk phospholipids naturally present in the MFGM.

Introducing Milk Phospholipids

Because bovine milk is one of the most plentiful, sustainable sources of MFGM, Fonterra developed NZMP Milk Phospholipids to adequately fulfill the growing demand for natural ingredients that function to support the body in times of stress and helping to support overall mental well-being.

Naturally present in milk as part of the milk fat globule membrane, milk phospholipids are complex lipids that are clinically proven to help manage the effects of stress, helping maintain performance by staying focused and positive.

Rachel Marshal, Global Technical Engagement Manager at Fonterra, explains, “Due to more supporting clinical evidence, phospholipids are increasingly being recognized for their health benefits of stress management (among other benefits). The milk fat globule membrane is an excellent source of such phospholipids, hence we have developed NZMP Milk Phospholipids as a natural means to deliver the health benefits of stress management, (performance under stress and remaining positive under stress).”

She adds that NZMP is one of the first to offer a milk phospholipid ingredient, and at scale. NZMP Milk Phospholipids are suitable for use as a standalone product, or as an addition to a range of attractive food and beverage applications. It has a neutral flavor and is high in beneficial whey protein, providing formulation flexibility in food and beverage applications (eg, dissolvable sachets, protein dough and granola/cereal-based bars, and ready-to-mix beverage powders).

NZMP completed online consumer testing with US consumers for bar and beverage concepts and both formats showed very good appeal. While supplements remain a dominant way in which consumers boost their nutrition, functional foods and beverages are increasingly favored which creates tremendous opportunity to formulate stress-reduction and mental health-boosting products with NZMP Milk Phospholipids.

NZMP Milk Phospholipids is a powder with added naturally occurring high whey protein content which gives appeal and flexibility for use in nutritional products. “The ingredient’s neutral dairy flavor enables incorporation into formulations without negatively impacting taste,” describes Marshall. “We have successfully formulated NZMP Milk Phospholipids into ready to mix protein powders and both dough bar and granola bars and are working on other formats.  We expect applicability in any format where whey protein concentrate can be used.”

Discerning consumers will embrace products made with NZMP Milk Phospholipids because it is produced from non-GMO, rBST-free, grass-fed cow’s milk. “Dairy ingredients are new to the mental well-being space, and we look forward to helping brands own real estate in this growing space,” Marshal concludes.



  1. Boyle NB, et al (2019): Effects of milk-based phospholipids on cognitive performance and subjective responses to psychosocial stress: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in high-perfectionist men. Nutrition​, 57, 183-193.
  2. Schubert M, et al. (2011): Milk-based phospholipids increase morning cortisol availability and improve memory in chronically stressed men. Nutrition Research​, 31, 413-420.
  3. Contarini G & Povolo M (2013): Phospholipids in milk fat: Composition, biological and technological significance, and analytical strategies. International Journal of Molecular Sciences,​ 14, 2808-2831.
  4. Hellhammer J, et al. (2010): Effects of milk phospholipid on memory and psychological stress response. British Food Journal​, 112, 1124-1137.

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