Unlocking milk's formula could save lives, say scientists

Jun 23, 2014
Unlocking milk’s formula could save lives, say scientists

(Phys.org) —A new study on the digestion of milk could lead to the development of new formulas for premature babies, weight loss drinks and potentially new drug delivery systems.

Published in the journal ACS Nano, the Monash University research shows for the first time detailed insights into the of milk during digestion.

Whilst milk's nutritional values are well known, little research has been conducted into the detailed structure of milk and how its fats interact with the until now.

Funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), and led by Dr Stefan Salentinig and Professor Ben Boyd from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS), the team looked at the nanostructure of milk to find out how its components interact with the human digestive system.

They discovered milk has a highly geometrically ordered structure when being digested.

Dr Salentinig said the research provides a blueprint for the development of new milk products. It could also lead to a new system for .

"By unlocking the detailed structure of milk we have the potential to create milk loaded with fat soluble vitamins and brain building molecules for , or a drink that slows digestion so people feel fuller for longer. We could even harness milk's ability as a 'carrier' to develop new forms of drug delivery," Dr Salentinig said.

By chemically recreating the digestive system in a glass beaker and adding cows' milk, the team found that milk has a unique structure – an emulsion of fats, nutrients and water forms a structure which enhances digestion.

As well as laboratory work at MIPS, the researchers accessed specialist instruments at the Australian Synchrotron to simulate digestion and accelerate the research. Using enzymes present in the body, water was added to to break it down, and the Synchrotron's small angle X-ray scattering beam showed that when digested, the by-products of milk become highly organised.

Dr Salentinig said the structure is similar to a sponge, potentially enhancing the absorption of milk's healthy fats.

"We knew about the building blocks of milk and that fat has significant influence on the flavor, texture and nutritional value of all dairy food. But what we didn't know was the structural arrangement of this fat during digestion," he said.

"We found that when the body starts the digestion process, an enzyme called lipase breaks down the fat molecules to form a highly geometrically ordered structure. These small and highly organised components enable fats, vitamins and lipid-soluble drugs to cross cell membranes and get into the circulatory system," Dr Salentinig said.

The next phase of the research will see the team work with nutritionists to better make the link between these new findings and dietary outcomes, and under the ARC funding, utilize these findings to design and test improved medicines.

Explore further: Animal moms customize milk depending on baby's sex

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Changing cows' diet could help tackle heart disease

Apr 16, 2014

Adding oilseed to a cow's diet can significantly reduce the harmful saturated fat found in its milk without compromising the white stuff's nutritional benefits, according to research by the University of ...

Nutriflow delivers fat to preemies

Apr 28, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Fat, the bane of many an adult, is precisely what babies born prematurely need to gain weight and grow strong and healthy. Some students at Rice University have invented a device to ensure ...

Recommended for you

Cooling with the coldest matter in the world

8 hours ago

Physicists at the University of Basel have developed a new cooling technique for mechanical quantum systems. Using an ultracold atomic gas, the vibrations of a membrane were cooled down to less than 1 degree ...

Magnetic fields and lasers elicit graphene secret

8 hours ago

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have studied the dynamics of electrons from the "wonder material" graphene in a magnetic field for the first time. This led to the discovery of ...

New 2-D quantum materials for nanoelectronics

Nov 21, 2014

Researchers at MIT say they have carried out a theoretical analysis showing that a family of two-dimensional materials exhibits exotic quantum properties that may enable a new type of nanoscale electronics.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.