There is increasing evidence that milk-derived components have positive effects on infant health. The benefits of breastfeeding are well accepted. However, breastfeeding is not always possible, or an informed decision may be made not to breastfeed. In such cases, a suitable infant formula should be chosen. A team of researchers at Food for Health Ireland (FHI) is ambitiously searching for ingredients to improve infant formula so that babies can get nutritional benefits similar to those in natural breast milk. Comparisons between human milk and cow’s milk, as well as current trends in infant formula development are determining the opportunities for FHI’s researchers, who are working closely with the industry partners to close the gap between human milk and cow’s milk in terms of composition and functionality.
The early infant development platform brings together expertise in paediatrics, nutrition, food science, microbiology and immunology and researches five areas which are highly relevant for the global infant nutrition market:
- The production of sufficient amounts of an oligosaccharide (OS) enriched lactose powder that can be incorporated into all infant formulas from starter to toddler milks. The objective is to further develop and utilise suitable in-vitro and in-vivo models for validation of the milk oligosaccharide bioactivity in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts and to determine the mode of action of anti-infective milk oligosaccharides using novel in-vitro models.
- The humanisation of bovine milk fat through inter-esterification by replacing a part of the palm oil content with milk fat. This innovative fat blend will improve the sustainability and sensory properties of current plant oil bends while at the same time offering more digestive comfort to the baby.
- The focus of the third work stream is to look at Irish whey derived from pasture-fed cows to identify unique biomarkers offering nutritional and / or health benefits compared to whey made from grain-fed cow’s milk.
- The fourth group is searching for immune-modulatory milk-based proteins that can protect the infant against cows milk protein allergy and gut inflammation.
- The fifth team is investigating the potential for programming the foetus in utero by supplementing the mothers’ diet with a combination of an FHI milk hydrolysate and beta-glucan.”
The early infant development platform brings together expertise in paediatrics, nutrition, food science, microbiology and immunology.
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