Milk, a unique source of sustainable, nutritional and functional proteins

In recent years, dietary advice has pivoted from a single focus on nutritional recommendations to address sustainability of food production and thereby its impact on the planet. In response to embrace sustainability, we are seeing a flurry of recommendations to replace animal protein with plant proteins. Although such a simple message may seem to make sense, it disregards several unique features of milk proteins and in particular their benefit to human health. To address this ongoing debate, the IMGC VIRTUAL Symposium 2021 will focus on “Future Perspectives on Milk Bioactives and Proteins”.

Milk proteins serve as the single most important protein source in early human life, being ideally derived from human milk but alternatively from animal milk. Milk proteins not only deliver nutrition by being rich in essential amino acids, but also provide immune protection and positively influence the development (e.g. intestinal tract and brain) of the infant. By studying human milk, we learn more about these functional benefits of its proteins. By simultaneously studying animal milks, from platypus to cow, we can then compare the presence and characteristics of milk proteins among other species, allowing us to gain deeper insight in their unique functions. Part of this understanding of functionality is dependent on studying the digestion of milk proteins, and the resulting peptides and their functions on human health. Where some milk proteins, like caseins, are broken into a wide range of functional peptides, others, like immune-active proteins, are hardly broken down during digestion and impart immune protection, especially in infants. When dealing with the sustainability of milk proteins, we should thus not only focus on outputs such as the carbon footprint per kg of milk protein, but also consider all of the nutritional and unique functional benefits of milk proteins across all stages of life.

Interesting in learning more about this topic, join me at this symposium