Nutrition and Medical Products
Infant & Early Child Nutrition
Human breast milk is widely considered to be the ideal food for newborn infants, with its composition thought to have resulted from the effects of time and evolution on nutritional compromise between mother and infant. Alongside the nutritional components, human milk contains an incredible array of biologically-active ingredients, including antibodies, functional enzymes, growth factors, gastrointestinal protective factors, functional immune cells and non-protein nitrogen sources. Changes in composition occurring over the course of lactation render human milk a remarkably complex infant food.
The challenge of manufacturing an infant formula that is a perfect match to human milk is well beyond the current capabilities of producers. However, in recent decades, great strides have been made in the production of nutritionally sound infant formulas, which mimic many of the major characteristics of human milk. Cow's milk protein-based infant formulas are relied upon to provide optimal nutritional support for infants that, for a variety of reasons, cannot be, or are not, breastfed.
U.S. whey proteins are widely used by global infant formula manufacturers to adjust the protein composition of cow's milk-based infant formulas. Addition of whey protein in cow's milk-based formula recipes is necessary to adjust the whey:casein ratio from approximately 20:80 of cow's milk to 60:40 ratio of human breast milk. Supplemental whey protein is also used in formulas for older infants and young children, and hydrolyzed proteins are used in products for infants with cow's milk protein allergy. In the case of milk protein allergy, highly hydrolyzed whey protein is increasingly being utilized in hypoallergenic formula, which is frequently recommended for babies that show a high risk of development of cow's milk allergy. Use of whey is motivated by its high biological value and superior taste and smell, compared to hydrolyzed casein.
Interest in using cow's milk whey protein enriched in alpha-lactalbumin is also rising due to its high concentration in human milk and its beneficial amino acid profile. It is hypothesized that an alpha-lactalbumin-enriched whey protein concentrate would facilitate a very close plasma amino acid profile match for human milk. Alpha-lactalbumin has high concentrations of cystine and tryptophan.
Protein fractions found in whey, such as lactoferrin have also been identified that have bioactive properties at low concentration. Lactoferrin is a protein with a number of exciting functional characteristics including antibacterial and antiviral properties, prevention of the growth of pathogenic organisms in the gut, stimulation of the immune system, regulation of iron metabolism and control of cell or tissue damage. Some of the interest in enriching infant formula applications with lactoferrin originates from the comparison of human milk to bovine milk. Lactoferrin concentration in human milk is 0.20g/100ml vs. 0.01g/100ml in mature cow's milk.
For more information on utilizing U.S. whey ingredients in infant formula applications, please download the monograph: U.S. Whey Products & Child Nutrition
Dairy consumption is similarly essential for growing children and adolescents. Low-fat and fat-free milk - whether white or flavored - plays a vital role within meals both at home and in school. This includes helping children meet needs for critical nutrients including calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Potassium, Riboflavin, Niacin, Phosphorus and Protein. The calcium in dairy notably helps children build and maintain strong bones and teeth.
For more information on dairy's role for early child nutrition, click visit the National Dairy Council's website.