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Unveiling Consumer Flavor Trends in Sports Nutrition

In the dynamic landscape of sports nutrition, staying attuned to real-time consumer flavor trends is paramount for maintaining a competitive edge and driving product innovation. As pioneers in the field, it is imperative to leverage market insights and statistical data to decipher evolving consumer preferences and anticipate flavor trends that resonate. Let us delve into the latest statistics shaping the realm of sports nutrition flavors, offering valuable insights to inform your research and development endeavors.

Emerging Flavor Profiles

According to recent market research data, there has been a notable surge in demand for innovative and unconventional flavor profiles within the sports nutrition sector. Statistics reveal a significant uptick in consumer interest towards exotic fruit flavors such as dragonfruit, lychee, and passionfruit, reflecting a growing appetite for adventurous taste experiences among fitness enthusiasts. Furthermore, data indicates a rising preference for indulgent dessert-inspired flavors, with statistics showcasing a surge in demand for decadent options like salted caramel, cookies and cream, and peanut butter chocolate. By capitalizing on these emerging flavor trends, sports nutrition companies can captivate consumer interest and foster brand loyalty through product offerings that cater to evolving taste preferences.

Functional Ingredients: Flavor Fusion for Performance Enhancement

In addition to flavor innovation, the integration of functional ingredients into sports nutrition formulations presents an opportunity to enhance both flavor profiles and performance benefits. Statistics reveal a growing consumer interest in products infused with adaptogenic herbs and botanical extracts, with data indicating a notable increase in demand for flavors complemented by ingredients such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, and ginseng. Moreover, statistical insights underscore a rising demand for refreshing and invigorating flavor combinations infused with electrolytes and hydration-enhancing ingredients, catering to the needs of active individuals seeking optimal performance and recovery support. By aligning flavor innovation with the functional benefits of key ingredients, research and development teams can create synergistic formulations that elevate the sports nutrition experience and meet the diverse needs of consumers striving for peak performance.

Personalization and Customization: Navigating Flavor Diversity

As consumer preferences diversify and evolve, the demand for personalized and customizable flavor options within the sports nutrition space continues to gain momentum. Statistical data highlights a growing interest in modular flavor systems that empower consumers to tailor their nutritional supplements according to individual taste preferences and dietary requirements. Furthermore, insights reveal a burgeoning demand for clean label flavor solutions, with statistics indicating a preference for natural and organic flavorings derived from botanical sources such as vanilla, cinnamon, and citrus. By leveraging statistical insights to develop customizable flavor platforms and clean label solutions, research and development teams can empower consumers to personalize their sports nutrition experience while upholding transparency and integrity in product formulations.

In conclusion, real-time consumer flavor trends serve as invaluable guideposts for research and development efforts within the sports nutrition industry, offering a window into evolving taste preferences and market dynamics. By leveraging statistical data to inform flavor innovation, integrate functional ingredients, and embrace customization, research and development workers can spearhead the creation of innovative products that resonate with fitness enthusiasts worldwide, driving growth and differentiation in a competitive marketplace.

Harnessing the Potential of Dairy Proteins: Exploring Functional Applications

Young woman and man drinking protein shake after workout

In the realm of functional foods, dairy proteins hold immense potential. Unlock the opportunities by harnessing the unique functional properties of ingredients like Lactoferrin, Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM), and alpha-lactalbumin. These remarkable components not only enrich the nutritional profile of products but also offer a plethora of functional benefits that cater to the diverse needs and preferences of consumers worldwide.

Diverse Applications for Enhanced Wellness

The versatility of dairy proteins opens up a world of possibilities. Lactoferrin, with its powerful antimicrobial and immune-enhancing properties, holds immense potential for applications in products targeting immune support and gut health. Similarly, MFGM, rich in bioactive lipids and proteins, has garnered attention for its role in cognitive development and mental well-being, making it a coveted ingredient in functional foods aimed at promoting brain health across all life stages. Meanwhile, alpha-lactalbumin, renowned for its high nutritional value and bioavailability, emerges as a frontrunner in formulations targeting muscle recovery, weight management, and sports nutrition. By leveraging these ingredients, dairy protein companies can create a diverse portfolio of functional foods that address a wide spectrum of health concerns, from bolstering immunity to optimizing cognitive function, and beyond.

Innovative Formulations for Consumer Delight

The duality of science and innovation unlocks endless possibilities for crafting functional foods that not only nourish the body but align with consumer tastes and preferences. Whether it’s formulating a RTM fortified with Lactoferrin for post-workout recovery or developing a decadent snack bar enriched with MFGM for cognitive support, the potential for creative product development is limitless. By combining the functional benefits of dairy proteins with innovative formulations and flavor profiles, companies can captivate consumers and carve out a niche in an increasingly competitive market landscape. Moreover, the integration of these ingredients into everyday staples such as yogurt, milk, and cheese presents an opportunity to enhance the nutritional value of traditional dairy products while meeting the evolving demands of health-conscious consumers.

Relaxed young sportswoman doing yoga and meditating in studio.

Pairing Lactoferrin, Milk Fat Globule membrane (MFGM), and alpha-lactalbumin with complementary functional ingredients amplifies their individual efficacy, unlocking synergistic health benefits and enhancing consumer appeal. Let’s explore potential pairings for each:

Lactoferrin:

  • Probiotics: Combining Lactoferrin with probiotics enhances gut health by promoting a balanced microbiome and reinforcing immune function.
  • Prebiotic Fibers: Pairing Lactoferrin with prebiotic fibers such as inulin or chicory root fiber nourishes beneficial gut bacteria, fostering gut health and overall well-being.
  • Vitamin C: The synergistic interaction between Lactoferrin and vitamin C strengthens immune function, offering robust defense against pathogens and oxidative stress.

Milk Fat Globule membrane (MFGM):

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Incorporating MFGM with omega-3 fatty acids, sourced from fish oil or algae, supports cognitive health and brain function, offering comprehensive cognitive support.
  • Choline: Pairing MFGM with choline-rich sources such as lecithin enhances neuronal signaling and neurotransmitter synthesis, promoting cognitive clarity and mental acuity.
  • Antioxidants: Combining MFGM with antioxidants like vitamin E or polyphenols fortifies cellular defense mechanisms, shielding brain cells from oxidative damage and preserving cognitive function.

Alpha-lactalbumin:

  • Branched-chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): Pairing alpha-lactalbumin with BCAAs, such as leucine, isoleucine, and valine, promotes muscle protein synthesis, enhances muscle recovery, and supports athletic performance.
  • Digestive Enzymes: Combining alpha-lactalbumin with digestive enzymes like proteases and lipases improves protein absorption and utilization, optimizing nutrient delivery to muscles and tissues.
  • Magnesium: Pairing alpha-lactalbumin with magnesium enhances muscle relaxation and recovery, mitigates exercise-induced muscle cramps, and supports overall muscle function and performance.

By strategically pairing Lactoferrin, MFGM, and alpha-lactalbumin with complementary functional ingredients, dairy protein companies can develop innovative formulations that offer holistic health benefits, catering to diverse consumer needs and preferences.

Formulating With Clear Whey Protein

Protein products have dominated store shelves for several years now – everything from protein bars to shakes, chips to baking mixes. Protein, specifically proteins from milk, have been shown to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease1 and improve overall satiety2. They’re also great for muscle recovery, on-the-go nutrition, and create functional benefits for a multitude of food categories. So, what is driving innovation in this market? Clear proteins. These proteins are capable of fortifying new categories of functional foods. They can be utilized at a range of concentrations, processes, and provide a clean and fresh flavor. In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of clear whey proteins, how to use them, important formulation and processing considerations, and highlight PRObev™, our award-winning protein that is a leader in the clear protein category.

CLEAR PROTEIN APPLICATIONS IN TODAY’S MARKET

While protein is an ever-growing market sector, as mentioned before, low pH (defined as pH less than five) protein is driving that growth. Whey proteins continue to be at the top of athletes’ lists when it comes to muscle recovery and protein completeness. However, finding novel uses of whey has become increasingly important to avoid consumption fatigue.

When it comes to clear proteins, whey is the obvious choice. At a pH of less than 4.6, whey protein is very soluble and has excellent clarity. As a bonus, the acidic environment these products have create safe foods when mild heat treatments are applied.

This category also allows for more novel applications and flavors which contributes to its lower consumption fatigue. The adjustable protein amounts similarly helps target different market sectors from sports nutrition to functional foods. Clear proteins support in-market trends such as protein waters for those seeking hydration, and they support the shift from protein consumption by mostly sports nutrition consumers to consumers seeking functional health. These proteins also lend themselves to emerging trends such as immunity, detox, beauty from within, and healthy aging.

CHARACTERISTICS OF CLEAR PROTEINS

Clear proteins are achieved through the acidification and purification of whey protein at a pH of less than 3.2. Clear protein allows a high concentration of protein in a beverage while keeping viscosity low. These ingredients provide a clean and slightly acidic flavor profile that creates a unique opportunity to utilize fresh and fun flavors.

There are several advantages to using clear proteins such as heat stability, application clarity, and a clean flavor. We’ll dive deeper into these advantages and the considerations one must take when formulating with these proteins.

CLARITY 

One of the most important aspect of clear proteins is their overall clarity in the final application. This can be affected by several factors. The most important amongst them are heat, pH, protein concentration, additives, and processing.

Heat and pH are closely associated when it comes to protein clarity. In some instances (pH < 3.2) heat does very little to the turbidity of the protein solutions. However, above a certain pH, the clarity of the solution is drastically reduced after heating (creating an opaque solution) as shown in Figure 1.

Another consideration in protein solution clarity is protein concentration. As the protein concentration increases, the solution becomes more turbid. While solutions of greater than 20% protein are possible, concentrations of less than that are recommended for stable products over a long shelf life.

Additives that are used in tangent with a clear protein can have a large impact on final application clarity. Vitamins and minerals, flavors, preservatives, stabilizers, sweeteners, fats and oils, and acidulants are all additives that can impart negative effects on clarity. It’s important to test your formulation in its final form and processing to ensure there are no unwanted changes to clarity.

Processing is the last major factor when it comes to protein clarity. Due to the high-acidity, clear proteins need only minimal processing to produce safe and stable products. Below we’ll explore heat stability as an advantage to clear whey proteins and how different processing conditions vary.

HEAT STABILITY

There are numerous types of heating processes a product can go through to make a microbiologically safe product. However, at a higher temperature (>165°F), whey proteins denature and cause sedimentation, gelation and increased viscosity due to changes in protein structure and the aggregation/polymerization with other proteins. This change also depends on the thermal load (temp x time) and concentration of whey protein in the solution. Generally, if whey protein solution is subjected to high heat load, it will result in instant gelling of solution. Milk proteins are inherently more heat stable due to the casein structure3. Therefore, milk proteins are more suitable for high protein drinks in UHT applications. Interestingly, Milk Specialties’ whey proteins can withstand higher heat load at specific concentrations with unique formulations.

FLAVOR

As with all consumer products, flavor is the driver. Traditional protein beverages come in ‘milky’ flavors or coffeehouse flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and café latte. Clear proteins are unique from others on the market in that they have higher acidity. The high-acid environment means clear proteins are a good base for fruity and diverse flavors like citrus and mixed berry, or novel flavors like elderflower and hibiscus. Particularly popular right now are mocktails – nonalcoholic mojitos, mules and Manhattans.

CONCLUSION

The increasing demand for dairy protein has driven companies to explore new and novel ways to include protein in a variety eating occasions. Clear proteins are an excellent way to innovate beyond the standard milky flavors and neutral pH options. With great heat stability, optimal clarity and clean flavor, clear proteins are the clear choice for your next product innovation.

PRObev™

Milk Specialties has developed an award-winning protein, PRObev™, that is an acidified clear whey protein isolate produced via a proprietary filtration process that isolates whey proteins in a highly concentrated form to provide maximum functionality. With greater than 84.6% protein on an as-is basis and less than 3.0% fat, this protein can fortify a multitude of applications and provide exceptional clarity and a clean taste profile. PRObev™ has been found by the University of North Carolina to have an exceptionally clean flavor profile and was significantly less sour and astringent than the competitor’s product. With a suggested labeling of PRObev™ (Whey Protein Isolate) this clean label protein is ideal for high acid application work.

REFERENCES

Davoodi SH, Shahbazi R, Esmaeili S, et al. Health-Related Aspects of Milk Proteins. Iran J Pharm Res. 2016;15(3):573-591.

Bendtsen LQ, Lorenzen JK, Bendsen NT, Rasmussen C, Astrup A. Effect of dairy proteins on appetite, energy expenditure, body weight, and composition: a review of the evidence from controlled clinical trials. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(4):418-438. Published 2013 Jul 1. doi:10.3945/an.113.003723

Patel, H. and Patel, S., Technical Report: Understanding the role of dairy proteins in ingredient and product performance. 2015. U.S. Dairy Export Council.

Protein: Back to Basics

How important is dietary protein?

Protein has been a mainstay in the diet of bodybuilders, sport and fitness fanatics for years, but the last couple of decades have seen huge growth in appreciation of this key macronutrient in the diet of all ages, stages, needs and health goals. Often referred to as the “mainstreaming of the sports nutrition market”, high protein products appear to be everywhere and consumers can meet their protein needs in a variety of ways; from Greek yogurt and ultra-filtered milk to protein cookies and bread, to protein shakes, sparkling protein water, and bars. But what are the benefits of higher protein diets, to which demographic, and does it matter where it comes from?

Benefits of Protein

Everyone needs protein in their diet for basic physiological functioning. About 16% of a lean adult’s body mass is protein, while skeletal muscle tissue in general is closer to 90%. Although it has a critical structural role in the body through muscle and connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons, it also plays a huge functional role in components such as antibodies for immune responses, transporters, hormones, enzymes and many more. When it comes to muscle mass and staying active, evidence shows that optimizing protein intake can help to maintain muscle mass, manage weight by enhancing satiety, improve longevity, enhance recovery from injury, illness, and bedrest, improve endurance performance, and even support a good night’s sleep (with certain types of protein).

How much is recommended and when?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA), set at 0.8g/kg body weight, is the level required to avoid deficiencies and for basic functioning. However, general scientific opinion and evidence demonstrates that optimal intakes are greater than this and are linked to age, activity level and health goal. As highlighted in table 1, intakes between 1.1 and 2.2g/kg body weight can help support physical demands on the body and optimize body composition and health outcomes.

Table 1. Protein Intake Recommendations (iPG, 2018 https://www.internationalproteinboard.org/protein-matters/protein-requirements.htm)

The western diet tends to have protein intake skewed to the evening but spreading protein intake throughout the day can mean taking advantage of protein’s ability to help maintain muscle mass and may even enhance satiety throughout the day. Aim for at least 20-30g at each meal and even at snacks, to reach your daily optimal intake.

Does the type of protein matter?

Protein can be found in many foods and our daily protein intake comes from a variety of sources. The scientific evidence around the benefits that different protein sources can provide continues to improve and it is the topic of much debate, particularly with new, more sophisticated techniques to measure protein quality, and the increased marketing and availability of plant proteins. The newest protein quality assessment method, DIAAS (digestible indispensable amino acids score), gives us the most accurate insight into how well a protein is absorbed by the gut, and thus the extent to which it can satisfy human physiological needs. As shown in table 2, animal source proteins, such as whey protein and milk protein, have a significantly higher protein quality compared to plant source proteins, such as soy, pea and whole-grain wheat. Utilizing higher quality proteins can be particularly beneficial at certain times or for certain groups, such as recovery from exercise, enhanced satiety for weight management or weight loss, aging population who require a higher leucine intake (whey protein is the highest dietary source of this key amino acid), or intense metabolic demands like post-operative recovery and bedrest.

Where can you get protein from?

The table below provides some good examples of dietary protein sources, including the amount of essential amino acids (EAAs) and the all-important branched-chain amino acid, leucine.

Resources

International Protein Board (2018). Protein Matters: The Need to Re-evaluate the Adequacy and Application of Protein Requirements. www.internationalproteinboard.org

USDEC (2018). A New Era for Protein: Why U.S. Dairy Delivers in the Crowded Protein Marketplace www.thinkusadairy.org

BASES (2022). The BASES Expert Statement on protein recommendations for athletes: amount, type and timing. www.bases.org.uk

Lactoferrin and It’s Oral Health Benefits

Lactoferrin is a natural, iron-binding glycoprotein naturally found in the human body, and the bodies of other mammals. It is naturally found in saliva, tears and milk. Due to advances in technology, lactoferrin can be concentrated from bovine milk making it possible to use as an ingredient in health and wellness products.  

In addition to being renowned for its ability to naturally support the body’s immune system, lactoferrin is now being more widely used in a variety of applications from one-a-day supplements to skin and beauty products. Since lactoferrin is naturally found in our saliva it has been studied in oral health applications

Lactoferrin and Gum Health 

A group of Italian researchers looked at using lactoferrin as a treatment for periodontis. While they researchers noted in their 2011 study that more research is needed, the study found that lactoferrin’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties offer strong potential as a treatment. The researchers concluded, “…these results provide strong evidence for a role of bLf (bovine lactoferrin) in curing periodontitis, thus extending the therapeutic potential of this multifunctional natural protein.” 

Oral Inflammation  

Inflammation of the gums and mouth can be painful and a sign of large problems. Lactoferrin possesses all natural anti-inflammatory abilities, positioning it as an ideal inclusion in oral health products. Some research indicates daily supplementation of as little as 200mg of lactoferrin can provide a therapeutic effect. Lactoferrin works by binding itself to iron in the body which inhibits microbial growth, leading to less inflammation.  

Lactoferrin and Oral Wound Healing  

As a natural bioactive glycoprotein found in milk, lactoferrin has been shown to help with challenges associated with wound healing such as microbes and inflammation. In oral health application, lactoferrin can be used to help fortify the body’s natural immune defenses because it binds to the iron that microbe require to proliferate.  

While oral health experts can best recommend treatments, lactoferrin is a low inclusion bioactive ingredient that can provide functional benefits to oral health products.  

Lactoferrin For Skin and Beauty

Lactoferrin is a useful ingredient in skin and beauty products. It is a glycoprotein that is naturally produced by humans and other mammals. Research around lactoferrin suggests it possesses multi-functional health benefits including antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and other properties. While research is ongoing, several academic studies from the past two decades indicate lactoferrin could be a beneficial treatment for skin infections and inflammation. Lactoferrin can help provide functional health benefits to existing products, or be the foundation for new skin and cosmetic products that aim to offer more functional benefits to the consumer.  

Lactoferrin Is Antimicrobial 

Lactoferrin can bind to iron, which inhibits the growth of pathogens. The function of this transferrin family protein and its peptides has been widely researched as a treatment for everything from Covid-19 to the common cold to fungal infections. These antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties, combine with a low inclusion rate for products, makes lactoferrin a powerful ingredient in skincare, beauty products, and oral health products.  

Lactoferrin is Anti-Inflammatory  

Inflammation can cause an array of skin conditions in otherwise healthy adults. Lactoferrin has been shown to be an all-natural immune modulator, which can help your body’s natural immune system work more effectively. This glycoprotein’s ability to work naturally with the body’s immune system, help provide an ally in combatting skin inflammation.   

Lactoferrin and Wound Healing and Skin Health 

 With lactoferrin’s ability to fight inflammation and infections, it is no surprise that it can be used as an aid to assist your body with the healing process. From acne to cuts, lactoferrin has the potential to be a powerful weapon for keeping skin healthy by helping provide an all natural boost to your body’s defense system.  

It opens the door to a new era of skincare and cosmetic solutions that prioritize not only aesthetic appeal but also functional health benefits for consumers.

Why Lactoferrin?

In conclusion, the exploration of lactoferrin for skin and beauty products reveals to be promising in the field of skincare and cosmetics. As a naturally occurring glycoprotein with antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and wound-healing properties, lactoferrin has garnered attention for its potential to enhance existing products or serve as the foundation for new and innovative formulations. As the scientific evidence supporting lactoferrin’s benefits accumulates, it opens the door to a new era of skincare and cosmetic solutions that prioritize not only aesthetic appeal but also functional health benefits for consumers. Want to learn more? We can help.

Nutrition Challenges For Aging: The Impact of Protein on Satiety and Energy Intake

Road running, fitness and senior couple training together on a exercise and workout run. Sports and health motivation of elderly man and woman runner in retirement living a healthy lifestyle.

The process of aging causes multiple physiological, psychological and social changes that affect food choice and consumption. Advancing age alters food reward signals, reduces food craving behavior, and suppresses appetite and energy intake, all of which contribute to a condition termed the “anorexia of ageing”. Compared with younger adults, older adults are reported to consume approximately 30% less energy per day. Dietary diversity (the number of different foods or food groups consumed over a given reference period) is also attenuated with ageing, with lower consumption of protein reported in older populations. Inadequate regulation of food and protein intake increases the risk of developing conditions such as sarcopenia and osteoporosis. Therefore, protein-energy homeostasis is considered a fundamental dietary-related determinant of healthy aging.

Dietary protein requirements increase with age, attributed partly to an increase in anabolic resistance to muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which accelerates loss of skeletal muscle mass and function. Maintaining muscle mass is essential to protect against falls, which are a leading cause of injury-related mortality in older people and a consequence of anorexia of ageing.

Despite the highly satiating effects of protein, interestingly, evidence suggests that older adults exhibit a blunted satiety response to protein consumption compared with younger adults. In fact, whey protein drinks have been shown to increase short-term total daily energy and protein intake in older people, even when the protein content of the drinks is very high. Another promising strategy for promoting energy and protein consumption in later life is the fortification of foods with protein. Increasing food volume to meet energy requirements is often unachievable in older groups, therefore, increasing energy and protein density while not affecting or reducing portion size, would be beneficial. As it is frequently reported that older adults consume inadequate amounts of protein, supplementing a healthy diet with additional high-quality protein may sufficiently stimulate MPS, without adversely affecting habitual appetite and food intake. However, further studies investigating compliance with long-term protein supplementation and the effects on satiety and energy intake are warranted.    

With the global population ageing (current UN projections expect 1.5 billion people over the age of 65 by 2050), innovative strategies to support protein-energy homeostasis are essential. Adopting a co-production approach involving academia, industry, practitioners and members of the public may stimulate the design of effective nutritional interventions, which consider age-related changes in physiology, cognition and lifestyle that affect appetite and dietary needs and preferences.

Further references and reading:

Bauer, J., Biolo, G., Cederholm, T., Cesari, M., Cruz-Jentoft, A.J., Morley, J.E., Phillips, S., Sieber, C., Stehle, P., Teta, D. and Visvanathan, R., 2013. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. Journal of the American Medical Directors association14(8), pp.542-559.

Dent, E., Hoogendijk, E.O. and Wright, O.R., 2019. New insights into the anorexia of ageing: from prevention to treatment. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care22(1), pp.44-51. 

Lonnie, M., Hooker, E., Brunstrom, J.M., Corfe, B.M., Green, M.A., Watson, A.W., Williams, E.A., Stevenson, E.J., Penson, S. and Johnstone, A.M., 2018. Protein for life: Review of optimal protein intake, sustainable dietary sources and the effect on appetite in ageing adults. Nutrients10(3), p.360.

Morley, J.E., 1997. Anorexia of aging: physiologic and pathologic. The American journal of clinical nutrition66(4), pp.760-773.

Nishimura, Y., Højfeldt, G., Breen, L., Tetens, I. and Holm, L., 2021. Dietary protein requirements and recommendations for healthy older adults–A critical narrative review of the scientific evidence. Nutrition research reviews, pp.1-48.

Highlights From the International Lactoferrin Conference

Every second year for the past 30 years, the top lactoferrin researchers gather to present, disseminate, and discuss the most recent research on this incredible ingredient for health, growth and development in infants and adults. With almost 11,000 published scientific papers on the topic, much is already known about its benefits; however, the presentations and wide-ranging research that is ongoing highlighted that many benefits and mechanisms are only just being discovered.   

Lactoferrin is a whey protein fraction that occurs naturally in both bovine and human milk. First isolated in 1939 and used in infant formula since the ‘80s, it’s an iron-binding glycoprotein that’s also found in supplements, gummies and even dental products. Its most researched benefits are highlighted in figure 1.  

Figure 1. Lactoferrin Benefits

Presenters from across the globe presented the influence of lactoferrin on many areas of health, including: 

  • Cystic fibrosis 
  • Inhibition of SARS-CoV2 virus 
  • Antifungal properties 
  • Hyper-ferritinemia (excess levels of the iron-binding protein, ferritin) 
  • Lowering iron levels in infant formula without negatively impacting growth or iron status 
  • Hair greying abstract. 
  • Cancer treatment and reduced tumor growth  
  • Cognitive function and protection 
  • Parkinsons Disease  
  • Reduced recurrence of bacterial vaginosis 

With so many potential benefits, it can sometimes seem too good to be true. But when digging into the mechanisms behind it, lactoferrin’s ability to bind iron is key in its function across many conditions of health and disease.  

Lactoferrin has a greater iron-binding capacity than the more commonly recognized protein, transferrin, which is renowned for transporting iron throughout the body. This iron-binding capacity helps enhance the iron status in adults and infants. This was highlighted in a couple of presentations; 1. Where the addition of lactoferrin to an infant formula meant the level of additional iron in the formula could be reduced, and still had the same benefit on overall infant growth and iron status. 2. Hyper-ferritinemia, a condition in which the body has too much iron, was also improved with lactoferrin supplementation.  

When it comes to its anti-microbial properties, there is no doubt of this protein’s benefits. In vitro work highlighted its ability to favorably impact the response to rotavirus infection, RSV and SARS-CoV2. It was a similar story when looking at the influence of bovine lactoferrin on fungal strains like Candida albicans, with an inhibition of growth with lactoferrin compared to control.  

An emerging area is the impact lactoferrin can have on bacterial vaginosis, BV, a persistent, recurring condition who’s treatment is mainly antibiotics that do not help mitigate recurrence.

Alpha-lactalbumin: Enabling Higher Quality Infant Formula

Care, woman feeding her baby with bottle and in living room on the sofa at their home. Family love, drinking or nutrition and black mother feed her newborn child on couch of their house with formula.

Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization as the best option for the developing infant1. Where breastfeeding is not possible, infant formulas provide a nutritious substitute, with advances in technology enabling more sophisticated formulas to be produced.

Both human and bovine milk are complex matrices of nutrients and bioactive compounds, developed by nature to support growth and development. The protein in both human and bovine milk is composed of two main types: whey and casein, although the ratio of these varies between species; from 60:40 whey:casein in mature human milk, to 20:80 in cows’ milk. Both types of proteins are high quality, meaning they have an excellent essential amino acid profile that is well digested and absorbed by the body.

Whey and casein themselves are composed of different protein fractions and figure 1 shows the differences in whey protein fractions between these milk sources2.

Figure 1. Whey protein profiles of breastmilk and cows’ milk (from sweet whey)2

Whey proteins in general and their constituent fractions have shown many nutritional and physiological benefits across the lifespan, not least, supporting infant growth and development. During digestion in the small intestine, whey proteins are broken down to amino acids and peptides, with the latter being suggested to exert physiological effects beyond just amino acid absorption.

BENEFITS OF ALPHA-LACTALBUMIN

Sleep-wake cycle

Sleep is critical for infant growth and development, particularly brain development3. Serotonin and melatonin are known to be key regulators of sleep across the lifespan; however, serotonin cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, thus it must be synthesized within the brain. The amino acid tryptophan is a precursor for serotonin and an amino acid able to cross the blood-brain barrier, hence it plays an important role in serotonin production.

Figure 2. Transport of TRP across blood-brain-barrier and subsequent serotonin synthesis.

The mean concentration of tryptophan in breast milk is around 2.5%, whereas standard formulas are only around 1-1.5%2. As discussed later, utilizing bovine alpha-lactalbumin in infant formulas can close this gap, as alpha-lactalbumin rich ingredients are higher in tryptophan than standard whey protein powders.

The influence of tryptophan-rich infant formula on sleep has been demonstrated in clinical trials. In one study, researchers looked at the influence of either tryptophan-rich infant formula during the day with standard formula at night (INV), vs tryptophan-rich formula at night with standard formula during the day (EXP), vs a standard formula control4. The standard formula contained 1.5% tryptophan, whereas the experimental formula contained 3.4% tryptophan. The researchers found that the EXP group had a greater total sleep time, better sleep efficiency (total time in the crib/total sleep time), more immobility time, and fewer night movements and waking episodes than the other groups (see figure 3).

Gastrointestinal and Immune Function

The infant gut is immature, and a number of factors influence its development, most notably the nutrients and bioactive compounds found in milk. With protein being a main component of mammalian milk, it’s no surprise this key nutrient influences gut and immune function.

Specifically, alpha-lactalbumin likely exerts some of its beneficial impact on gut development and immune health through the release of bioactive peptides in the small intestine. For example, it has been reported that three of the bioactive peptides released from alpha-lactalbumin, rather than alpha itself, demonstrate anti-microbial properties5.

In addition to serotonin’s influence on the sleep/wake cycle and central nervous system, it has also been reported to play a key role in gut motility and immune capability, while tryptophan itself has regulatory roles within the gut2.

Differences in the microbiome of breastfed and formula fed infants have been observed, with breastfed infants predominantly showing Lactobacillus and a diverse population of Bifidobacterium, while formula fed infants microbiome is more reflective of adults with more diversity6. Meanwhile, peptides from alpha-lactalbumin digestion have been reported to exert prebiotic benefits7.

One study investigated the incidence of E-coli induced diarrhea incidents in rhesus monkeys fed either standard formula, alpha-enriched formula or breastmilk8. Researchers found that not only were there fewer incidents in the alpha-fed monkeys than those fed standard formula, but this group also did not differ from the breastfed group, highlighting a closer match to the gold-standard recommendation.

A CLOSER MATCH TO MOTHER’S MILK

o ensure sufficient intake of amino acids in standard formulas, the overall protein level has traditionally been higher than that of breastmilk. However, this has been suggested as a cause of some of the longer term metabolic and health differences observed between breastfed and formula fed infants9. It is also thought to be a factor in the growth differences observed between breastfed and formula fed infants2.

By better matching the protein profile of breastmilk through ingredients such as alpha-lactalbumin, the overall protein content of infant formulas can be lowered, while still meeting infant’s amino acid needs and without compromising growth, development and long term 

health10.

Although standard bovine whey protein does contain some alpha-lactalbumin (~15-20% of total whey protein), utilization of advanced membrane and processing technologies enables manufacturers to increase the level of alpha-lactalbumin in whey protein ingredients, thus allowing infant formula producers to bring formulations closer to the composition of breastmilk.

This closer matching to breastmilk is supported by the similar amino acid composition of bovine and human alpha-lactalbumin, as shown figure 2.11.

Figure 4. Amino acid composition of alpha-lactalbumin from both cows’ milk and human milk11

CONCLUSION

Whey protein is composed of several protein fractions, with alpha-lactalbumin being the largest fraction in human milk. Bovine alpha has a very similar amino acid profile to human alpha and utilizing it as an ingredient in infant formula enables growth, development and nutritional support closer to breastfed infants. Alpha has been shown to have a number of benefits, including supporting the sleep-wake cycle, immune system and gut development. Breastfeeding is recommended as the optimal choice for infant growth and development. When this is not possible, sophisticated formulas – such as those containing alpha-lactalbumin – provide a valuable substitute.


NutriPRO™ Alpha-lac Offerings

At Milk Specialties Global, our scientists and engineers work relentlessly to create high-quality ingredients designed to optimize health and nutrition. With this in mind, our NutriPRO™ Alpha-Enriched range was developed to enable infant formula manufacturers to provide more sophisticated products that better support infant growth and development. Within this range are both whey protein concentrates and isolates, with 2 to 3 times the level of alpha in standard whey protein.

REFERENCES 

  1. Victoria et al (2016). The Lancet, 387:475-490
  2. Layman et al (2018). Nutr Rev 76(6):444-460
  3. Nieuwenhuizen et al (2008). Br J Nutr 101(12):1859-1866
  4. Aparicio et al (2007). Nutritional Neuroscience, 10:3-4, 137-143
  5. Pellegrini et al (1999). Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA), 1426(3)
  6. Harmsen et al (2003). J Paed Gast Nutr, 30:61-67
  7. Kee et al, 1998. Korean J Dairy Sci, 20:61-68
  8. Bruck et al (2003). J Ped Gastr Nutr, 37:273-280
  9. Sandström et al (2008). Am J Clin Nut, 87 (4):921-8
  10. Oropeza-Cej et al (2018). Nutrients, 10:886
  11. Lönnerdal and Lien (2003). Nutr Rev, 61(9):295-305

Casein: The Slow Protein For Overnight Recovery and Muscle Support

Casein makes up 80% of the protein in milk (whey being the other 20%) and has gained more attention in recent years for its nutritional and functional benefits.

As a high-quality protein from milk – and the major the protein in a milk protein concentrate or isolate – casein has a high level of essential amino acids (EAA), accounting for almost 50% of the protein, in a form that is highly digested and absorbed by the human body. While the leucine content is not as high as its partner, whey protein, it is still higher than other dietary protein sources.

Overnight recovery 

Muscle is constantly turning over, with cycles of muscle building and breakdown happening throughout the day and night. The overnight period has traditionally been a time of fasting, and therefore muscle breakdown, but research in recent years has looked at whether delivery of nutrients (particularly protein) during this period could favorably influence muscle protein synthesis.

Figure 1. Schematic representation of the process of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown throughout the day.

Due to the slower absorption kinetics, casein is often used as the main protein source in overnight recovery products. Since this is generally the longest period of the day without nutrient delivery, casein can provide prolonged delivery of amino acids when consumed before bed. This could be particularly beneficial certain groups of the population who have higher protein requirements or struggle to consume enough protein during the day, such as those engaged in heavy training and the aging consumer (who has a naturally reduced appetite).

Figure 2. Plasma leucine, branched-chain amino acids, essential amino acid, and total amino acid concentrations in the fasting state and after the ingestion of 25 g: micellar casein or native whey protein in healthy young men.

Studies have shown that pre-sleep consumption of 40g casein can increase muscle protein synthesis (Trommelen and van Loon, 2016), with recent work demonstrating that this tactic can also increase the production of muscle connective tissue in older adults undergoing a resistance training program (Holwerda et al, 2021).

Joy et al (2018) also demonstrated that nighttime consumption of 35g casein was as effective as daytime casein intake at increasing strength and muscle building, in response to a 10-week resistance training program. With the resistance training taking place in the morning, this study demonstrated that looking at overall 24hr nutrition is important, rather than just focusing on nutrient delivery straight after an exercise bout.

While there is limited data regarding the effect of nighttime protein consumption on metabolic parameters, Allman et al (2020) found no difference in lipolysis (breakdown of fats by the body) whether casein was consumed during the day or pre sleep, highlighting that “pre-sleep protein is a viable option for increasing protein consumption in resistance-trained women because it does not blunt overnight lipolysis, and will therefore likely not lead to increases in subcutaneous abdominal fat.”

In conclusion, casein is a slowly digested, high-quality protein that can be utilized pre-sleep to favorably influence muscle protein synthesis, and be a key part of 24hr nutrition intake.  

Milk Specialties CasPRO™ Range

Milk Specialties Global has developed the CasPRO™ range of casein and caseinates, delivering the functional and nutritional benefits of high quality protein that works across applications. For more information, please check out our website or reach out to a member of our team.