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Research explores milk nutrition benefits for infants

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The two-year project recently received $476,000 from dairy giant Fonterra. (file image)
Photo: 123RF

A Palmerston North-based researcher is looking into how milk products can bring the most nutritional benefit to infants.

Massey University Riddet Institute senior research officer Dr Alejandra Acevedo-Fani is leading the two-year project, which recently received $476,000 from dairy giant Fonterra.

“The idea is to understand in detail how milk components are digested and how does that affect the potential delivery of nutrients and absorption into the human body,” Acevedo-Fani said.

The project continued the institute’s recent work understanding the properties of milk, which she said was a “very complex liquid” made up of many components, including proteins and sugars.

Milk itself physically transformed during the digestive process, forming a semi-solid structure.

Those changes had implications for how proteins and lipids – fatty components – were delivered to the small intestine and, ultimately, how the body sourced nutrition, she said.

The project would focus on infants, and how milk and milk products could provide them with nutrition.

The Riddet Institute used digestion simulation technology for its work.

“At the end of this study, we want to understand how different milk ingredients are transformed in different digestive gastric conditions so that we can work backwards and formulate food for infant nutrition that provides better health outcomes,” Acevedo-Fani said.

The importance of milk in infant nutrition was recognised, she said.

Researchers hoped to later publish their work, which could help develop better products, she said.

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