Monday, April 23, 2018


Dairy based Nutraceuticals
Saturday, 04 March, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ajay Kumar, Dr Shaik Abdul Hussain and Vidhu Yadav
Milk and milk products play an important role in human nutrition and health status. Ayurveda, Indian traditional medical literature mentioned that panchamrita (a mixture of five foods used in Hindu worship and for treating many diseases) comprises sugar, honey, ghee, dahi and zebu cow milk.Among these five foods, three are milk-based products, which signify the high health importance of dairy products. Since ancient times, milk and milk products are used for treating ailments like ulcer and diarrhoea. Also, first food of all mammals, including human beings, is milk. If the newborn does not get milk from his/her mother, he/she is prone to large number of diseases or even death. That shows how vital milk is for the life of so many living organisms. Today’s consumers are well aware of food and health relation. They opt for eating functional foods, which prevent illnesses despite providing nutrition. In the current scenario of functional foods, milk and dairy products offer a great choice to consumers to maintain their health and well being.

Nutraceuticals, a term combining the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals,” is a food or food product that provides medical or health benefits including the prevention and treatment of diseases. Different countries have continued making regulations to fortify different nutrients with food, so as to prevent any chronic or non-chronic disease. In the early 1900s, USA started fortifying common salt with iodine to prevent the outspread of disease “Goitre.” From that time, the trend continues.

Dairy-based Nutraceuticals
Milk is a unique food providing a variety of essential nutrients necessary to properly fuel to the body. Milk contains several bioactive components inherently, whereas several others are produced when milk is subjected to processing (fermentation etc.) and specific treatment conditions. Several milk components, namely lactose, fat, protein (casein and whey protein) and minerals serve as the parent molecules for nutraceuticals.

Lactose-derived Nutraceuticals
Lactose-derived bioactive components are mainly prebiotic in nature. Prebiotics are the non-digestible ingredients which provide health benefits to the host by selectively simulating the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestine. Most of the prebiotics are oligosaccharides in nature. The examples of dairy-based prebiotics include lactulose, lactitol, and GOS (Galacto-oligosaccharide). These prebiotics are used in many infant formulas, where they act as bifidus factors; helping probiotics like bifidobacteria to grow in a better way. Lactitol and lactulose are also used in the treatment of chronic constipation, due to their laxative nature. Nowadays, GOS is mostly used for application in infant nutrition.

Milk fat-based Nutraceuticals
Ruminant animal milk contains some of the unique fatty acids like butyric acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). These fatty acids are formed during microbial fermentation of fibre in milch animal. These fatty acids have proven health benefits. Butyric acid reduces risk of colon cancer. CLA modulates immune functions and reduces the risk of stomach, breast and prostate cancers.

Sometimes, occurrence of Omega-3 fatty acids i.e. a-linolenic acid (ALA) is observed in milk. This fatty acid helps in synthesis of other long chain Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acids). Omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to help, reduce the risk of CVD, to improve immune functions and improve eye health. ALA is essential for the neural development of visual functions and cerebral cortex. DHA plays key role in brain and visual development of infants; in early phase of life. A balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids is determinant of anti-inflammatory responses.

Milk protein-based nutraceuticals
Casein is a major milk protein and accounts for about 80% of milk proteins. Caseins are regarded as the ion carriers (Ca, PO4, Fe, Zn, and Cu) and are associated without any known biological activity. But, the bioactive peptides derived from caseins are very well studied and in use for development of many functional foods. Health promoting properties of casein are latent, which are released upon proteolytic hydrolysis of it, in the form of so called “bioactive peptides.” This proteolytic hydrolysis can either take place during digestion in gastrointestinal tract or during fermentation in fermented foods like yoghurt. A large variety of peptides with various health benefits are produced, during milk fermentation which include antithrombotic and antihypertensive peptides (positive effects on cardiovascular system); opioid peptides (positive effects on nervous system); casino-phospopeptide (CPP) and glycomacropeptide (GMP) (positive effects on nutrition system); immunomodulating and antimicrobial peptides (positive effects on immune system). Several of these bioactive peptide preparations are in the world market to address multiple health problems. Bioactive peptides of milk consist of both casein as well as whey protein derived peptides.

Whey proteins comprise approximately 20% of total milk proteins. The milk whey protein fraction consists of a-lactalbumin, ß-lactoglobulin, bovine serum albumin, immunoglobulin, lactoferrin, transferrin, proteosepeptone fraction, growth factors, and hormones. Many whey proteins are claimed to possess physiological properties both in their native form and upon their degradation into bioactive peptides.

a - Lactalbumin exerts its beneficial effects through, the intact whole molecule or peptides of the partly hydrolysed protein or amino acids of the fully digested protein. a - Lactalbumin contains high amounts of essential amino acids tryptophan and cystein, which helps to cope with stress conditions. a - La - enriched diet improves cognitive functions in stress - vulnerable subjects. a - La is the precursor for many bioactive peptides which are associated with many biological properties like antihypertensive, antimicrobial, anticarcinogenic, immunomodulatory, opioid and prebiotic.

ß - Lactoglobulin accounts for about 50% of whey proteins of milk. ß - Lactoglobulin possesses a variety of functional and nutritional characteristics, which made this protein a multifunctional ingredient for many food and biochemical applications. ß - Lactoglobulin derived bioactive peptides are reported to be antihypertensive, antimicrobial, antioxidative, anticarcinogenic and immunomodulatory.

Milk mineral-based nutraceuticals
Many of the foods, for example, leafy vegetables like spinach, contain significant minerals, but they are thought to be of very low value because of insignificant bio-availability due to presence of anti-nutritional factors in them. But, in milk, calcium and other minerals are present in super-saturation form as colloidal calcium caseinate phosphates. Due to this unique form, they have high bio-availability to the host. Bioavailability of milk salts increases many folds by the fermentation of milk. Calcium plays an important role in bone development. Phosphorous is critical in metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It also has a role in protein synthesis and repair of cells and tissues.

Miscellaneous bioactive components of milk
Milk contains a vast amount of other bioactive components as well. The list is wide; immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozyme, and nucliotides. Immunoglobulins, lysozyme and lactoferrin like antimicronial substances are mainly present in colostrums, which is vital for the immunity of newborn. Nucleotides are suggested to be acting as pleiotropic factors in the development of brain functions. Because of important role of these components, many infant and follow-up formulae have supplemented with these components.

Milk and colostrum of all lactating species contain three major classes of immunoglobulins, IgG, IgM and IgA which provide passive immunity against invading pathogens. In colostrum, Igs make up 70-80% of the total protein content, whereas in mature milk, immunoglobulins account for only 1-2 % of the protein. Immunoglobulins act as a possible effective means of preventing or combating diarrhoea.

Lactoferrin is an iron-binding glycoprotein present in milk. Lactoferrin plays an important role in iron uptake in the intestine. Owing to its iron-binding properties, lactoferrin has been proposed to play a role as a bacteriostatic and antimicrobial agent against a range of microorganisms. Bioactive peptides with strong antimicrobial activity have also been derived from lactoferrin.

Enzyme lactoperoxidase present in milk is a very effective bactericidal agent. Lactoperoxidase is exploited for the cold-sterilisation of milk. Lysozyme is an antimicrobial enzyme found in milk and colostrum. Combinations of lysozyme and lactoferrin are more bacteriostatic due to their synergistic effects.

Milk also contains some growth factors, which comprise a heterogenous group of proteins and peptides. Growth factors are necessary for cellular growth. Colostrum is rich source of bioactive growth factors when compared to milk. Growth factors promote wound healing, bone resorption and also regulate some metabolic functions. Milk growth factor-based nutraceuticals are in market to prevent skin disorders. A large number of hormones are found in bovine colostrum and milk. These hormones play important role in the growth of the newborn.

The concept of nutraceuticals has evolved recently though it has kept coming from the ancient times. People are well aware of diet and health relation and they prefer to take foods, which provide medicinal benefits. Owing to their health benefits, worldwide there is a huge demand for nutraceuticals products. In India, nutraceuticals industry is less than 10% of the total food industry. The Indian market offers significant growth opportunities and wider profit margins for nutraceuticals manufacturers. More research into dairy-based nutraceuticals is needed to have a clear understanding of the active principles involved in health benefits associated with milk constituents. Stringent food laws should be framed to alleviate the false claims by fraudulent people with respect to nutraceuticals industry.

(Kumar is research scholar, Hussain is scientist, ICAR-NDRI, Karnal, and Yadav is professor, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi. They can be contacted at ,,
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