Divining Dairy


Perhaps Bart Simpson had it wrong when he exclaimed, “Don’t have a cow!” Granted, many lactose-intolerant people can’t enjoy milk-based products. But there is evidence that dairy-based compounds can help maintain human health in myriad ways.


Perhaps Bart Simpson had it wrong when he exclaimed, “Don’t have a cow!” Granted, many lactose-intolerant people can’t enjoy milk-based products. But there is evidence that dairy-based compounds can help maintain human health in myriad ways. As David Lenzmeier, vice president of Protient Inc. (St. Paul, MN), points out, the use and application of dairy ingredients has broadened distinctly because of the overall health and wellness trend. “We have gone from a very focused group of products that incorporated dairy proteins, like fitness supplements and powders, to a point where all major food manufacturers are incorporating nutritional dairy proteins into products.”


The dairy ingredients category has grown adeptly in response to the consumer market for weight-control products, says Fiona Taylor, market development manager for the immune health platform at DMV International Nutritionals (Delhi, NY). “The industry has responded with numerous product formulations suited to this category, and dairy is a great carrier for the shakes and meal replacers that have contributed significantly to the functional food category,” Taylor says. “It should be noted that the key to success in the mass market areas is always taste.”

Clifford E. Lang Jr., general sales manager of American Casein Co. (Burlington, NJ), a major producer of spray-dried casein compounds for the nutrition industry, adds that he sees a growing demand for the same ingredients-edible casein, sodium and calcium caseinates, milk protein concentrate, and milk protein isolate. “Over the years, the demand for the individual ingredients shifts up or down,” Lang says. “One year, milk protein isolate is popular, and the next year, sodium caseinate gains. But the overall trend seems to be up.”

And it’s no longer only about the protein content of dairy compounds, points out Barry Ritz, technical sales representative at LaBelle Inc. (Ripon, CA). Dairy products provide a source of high-quality protein, namely in the form of casein (the curds or insoluble portion) or whey (soluble proteins).

“As a natural reservoir of bioactive components, dairy-based ingredients have expanded greatly in recent years,” he states. “As a result, the quality and scope of the research supporting many of these dairy-based ingredients, such as certain probiotics and peptides that result from the fermentation of milk products, is elevated above what is available for other categories of nutraceuticals.”

This attention to dairy-based ingredients has resulted, in part, in the expansion in product offerings, as well as an increased number of companies dealing in dairy-based ingredients. “Dairy, including milk and whey, has always enjoyed a wholesome image, and the dairy industry as a whole has finally recognized the necessity of conducting studies that support specific health benefits,” Ritz says.

A similar viewpoint is presented by Jill Rippe, director of research and development for Main Street Ingredients (La Crosse, WI), who asserts that dairy is an “interesting case” of a traditional product category emerging into more-recent awareness of the healthfulness of its component ingredients. “We are seeing an expansion from dairy as just product (e.g., milk, cheese, butter, and byproducts) to dairy as products and ingredients; other functional ingredients are emerging.” Components such as whey protein isolate, calcium-rich milk mineral complexes, and bioactive components such as lactoferrin have become commercialized and available for use in a variety of nutritional products.

This is due, she reasons, to a combination of pushing and pulling dairy into the 21st century. “Fluid milk and traditional dairy products have been present through our history and perhaps recently have suffered from being too common, widely distributed, and just taken for granted. Declining milk and dairy product sales spurred action on the part of the dairy industry to innovate and become more competitive with modern food choices.”

With demand for convenience, taste, and nutrition, the growth in processed foods has spurred the food industry to new, exciting, and innovative food ingredient choices. The dairy industry has responded with a broad research effort that has included defining the value of dairy components as ingredients. Therefore, Rippe points out, the new opportunities are in a variety of designed foods. “There is not a food category where dairy ingredients cannot be used for nutritional or functional value, and of course this includes dairy products too,” Rippe says. “Some of the fun new product areas are in puddings, cookies, frozen desserts, and candy, where indulgent foods are being given a healthy overhaul.”

Conversely, dairy product manufacturers are seeking to fortify their foods and beverages with a wide variety of supplements to offer the consumer more potent and targeted nutritional value. Worldwide, the demand for better nutrition and a healthier way of life “is quite evident in the number of requests we receive from a variety of dairy manufacturers globally,” observes Udi Alroy, marketing director of Biodar (Yavne, Israel). “Consumers’ knowledge about the positive contribution of dairy foods in their diet drives the evolution of the category.”

There are other areas of emerging opportunities. For example, DMV is developing a cache of compounds that target specific pathogens. The first product to launch will address C. difficile, a bacteria that causes severe diarrhea in hospitalized patients. Future products will tackle H. pylori, the bacteria responsible for stomach cancer and other digestive conditions, and S. mutans, the bacteria that causes plaque.

In Ritz’s view, the long-term application of dairy-based products as nutraceuticals and functional foods will likely remain tied to the fact that dairy products generally provide many nutrients that work in concert. La Belle, for example, has invested in research to evaluate certain synergistic combinations with colostrum. Recently, La Belle partnered with Royal Numico (Schiphol Airport, The Netherlands) to launch Intact colostrum to the U.S. fitness market. Published clinical trials utilizing this specific colostrum preparation have demonstrated performance and recovery benefits in a variety of athletes, including cyclists, endurance runners and sprinters, rowers, and power lifters.

“Whey protein powders, as well as colostrum and other specialty preparations, might find increasing application in product forms other than powders, such as in bars,” Ritz says. “A good deal of research suggests that dairy-based protein powders might act as carriers in the development of new functional foods. The struggle for manufacturers to differentiate their whey-based protein products from those of their competitors is certainly evident, and increased knowledge of how dairy components interact with other functional ingredients will likely pave the way for new products.”


Calcium is one of the most popular dairy-derived ingredients. According to Charlene Lee, marketing director for Cyvex Nutrition (Irvine, CA), research has shown that calcium from milk provides better bone mineralization than some other calcium minerals. “Milk provides a bioavailable form of calcium, making it one of the best sources from food,” Lee says. “Bovine milk has approximately 1.2 grams of calcium per liter, 20% attached to casein and 80% in mineral form, with almost half as tricalcium phosphate. The U.S. Food Pyramid recommends two to three servings daily of milk or milk products to meet calcium and other bone-supporting nutrient levels. The addition of a milk-derived calcium supplement with other bone-building nutrients would help guarantee needs are being met.”

Cyvex Nutrition’s LactoCalcium, which provides 20–28% calcium plus other naturally occurring minerals in milk, was the subject of a recent unpublished in vitro study designed to evaluate whether calcium from milk minerals is digestible using digestive enzymes and to determine the biological activity of the digested calcium from milk by examining its ability to stimulate bone formation. According to Lee, the results demonstrated that calcium absorption was significantly increased with LactoCalcium and the designated ratio of digestive gastric and pancreatic enzymes. Furthermore, “a dose-dependent level of digested calcium promoted the mineralization of bone in a dose-dependent manner,” she summarizes.

Cowcium Natural Milk Calcium, from Garuda International Inc. (Lemon Grove, CA), contains all-natural milk-derived calcium phosphates, trace minerals, and less than 5% lactose. The natural milk calcium to phosphorus ratio is ~2:1, roughly the same ratio in human bones. “Most of the scientifically published data indicate that low-calcium, high-phosphorus diets correlate to low bone density,” says Marco Aurilio, technical manager at Garuda. “We need both, but the proportion is critical. The great controversy over bioavailability may be answered in a thorough study by Gueguen, et al., which indicated that calcium absorption seems more dependent on how much and how often it is in the diet, rather than in what form. Therefore, supplementing foods with biocompatible calcium could ensure consistent and sufficient absorption.”

Glanbia USA’s (Monroe, WI) TruCal, a free-flowing, white powder, contains 24% calcium and 13% phosphorus, a ratio highly conducive to bone growth and increased bone density, as well as magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron. It is used in the formulation of fortified beverages, supplements, meal replacement and convenience foods, baked goods, energy bars, fresh dairy products, and even confectionery applications.

Colostrum is a viable compound derived from primordial milk secreted by the mother bovine for its newborn, and which confers immune benefits-such as antibodies and lactoferrin, as well as growth factors and proteins needed to establish intestinal integrity and function in the young. La Belle produces its colostrum concentrates by removing casein, fat, and lactose. According to Ritz, these products resemble the nutritional profile of whey protein powders, providing up to 80% protein, vitamins and minerals, and conjugated linoleic acid, but also with an increased content of natural growth factors and antibodies that support healing and immune function.

Supplemental colostrum as a nutraceutical or functional food ingredient is prepared from excess colostrum collected from cows that is suitable for intake by humans and other mammals. Playford, et al., notes Ritz, have conducted a series of mechanistic and human clinical studies to identify bioactive components in bovine colostrum that support intestinal function and may prevent gastrointestinal damage caused by NSAIDs.

MicroLactin is another supplement ingredient that is comprised of micronutrients found naturally in cow’s milk. Supplied by Humanetics Corp. (Eden Prairie, MN), MicroLactin possesses unique properties associated with the human inflammatory response system. According to Humanetics, possible applications for the micronutrients include improving joint health, supporting immune response, promoting healthy cholesterol levels, supporting normal blood pressure, and improving muscle recovery after exercise.

Milk protein isolate is a mixture of the two proteins found in milk (whey and casein). According to Lenzmeier, this protein boasts a strong amino acid profile derived from both its whey and casein components. Furthermore, since milk protein isolate contains whey and casein, it retains many of the functional properties of both whey and casein. “Milk protein isolate is not yet as popular as separate whey and casein proteins,” he comments, “but consumers will appreciate the results they can achieve and the flavor profile. Milk protein isolate provides the user with a quick burst of amino acids from whey, as well as a longer-lasting, slow-digesting protein from casein.”

Protient Milk Protein Isolate 5000 (MPI 5000), which delivers the various benefits of casein and whey protein in one product, is manufactured using the company’s proprietary cross-flow membrane technology. “This allows for a product that delivers highly intact natural proteins because it never undergoes harsh processing,” Lenzmeier says. “But it yields an easily dispersible powder even without agglomeration, allowing for cost savings. MPI 5000’s incredibly bland and pleasing flavor profile creates a unique opportunity for product developers to incorporate nutritious protein into a variety of applications, without troublesome off flavors.”

Of course, this is only a representation of what is available, and is meant to summarize the expanding opportunities in nutraceutical foods and beverages containing dairy-based ingredients that provide specific health benefits for a variety of targeted consumer groups, from children to athletes to the elderly. Suffice it to say, “having a cow” is a good thing!

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