Issue 31

Whey gains for infant intestines

Special whey proteins support the health and development of formula-fed infants

Paediatric nutrition specialists at Arla Foods Ingredients have put together a portfolio of whey-based ingredients proven to promote healthy infant intestinal development.

Applied in infant formula, LACPRODAN® ALPHA-10, LACPRODAN® ALPHA-20 and LACPRODAN® MFGM-10 contribute a series of intestinal benefits similar to those provided by human breast milk.

One of the most important signs of good intestinal health in infants is a high content of bifidobacteria in the intestinal microbiota. In breast-fed infants, bifidobacteria predominate, while the microbiota of formula-fed infants is more complex and adult-like. The higher proportion and variety of bifidobacteria may explain why breast-fed infants experience fewer infections.

Prebiotic effect
LACPRODAN® ALPHA-10 and ALPHA-20 are high in alphalactalbumin, a major protein in human milk with a highly favourable amino acid profile. In vitro studies show that alphalactalbumin and associated proteolytic fragments stimulate some of the most abundant infant bifidobacteria, including B. breve and B. infantis. This prebiotic effect has been highlighted in two infant studies, which found a similar concentration of bifidobacteria in breast-fed infants and infants fed alphalactalbumin-supplemented formula.

Pathogen inhibition
Studies in vitro and in an artificial gut model have further revealed the ability of alphalactalbumin to inhibit pathogenic bacteria. In the model, an alphalactalbumin-enriched infant formula significantly reduced the level of pathogenic Clostridia, Bacteroides and Eschericia coli, while stimulating bifidobacteria counts similar to human milk.

In vivo investigations of this anti-pathogenic effect have involved challenging infant rhesus monkeys with E. coli. Here, only infants fed a control formula experienced acute diarrhoea. Those fed breast milk or formula supplemented with alphalactalbumin remained healthy throughout the study.

Robust development
Key components in LACPRODAN® MFGM-10 include mucin 1 (MUC1), immunoglobulinG (IgG) and sphingomyelin. Like alphalactalbumin, MUC1 and IgG are believed to protect against pathogens, appearing effective against rotavirus infection in in vitro and mice studies.

Sphingomyelin is thought to influence mucosal growth and development. Making up 38% of the phospholipids in human milk, sphingomyelin has been shown to play a role in neonatal intestinal maturation by reducing lactase activity – a maturational sign in breast-fed infants – maturing cells and influencing the structure of the intestinal wall. Another observation is an increase in the area of Auerbach’s plexus, part of the nervous system that controls intestinal peristalsis, secretion and absorption.

Expertise and dialogue
The paediatric nutrition team at Arla Foods Ingredients has broad expertise in applying speciality ingredients derived from milk whey in infant formula products. Close dialogue with manufacturers and the research world ensures continuous ingredient and application optimisation.

Arla Foods Ingredients recommends human breast milk as the best source of nutrition for infants in the first months of life.