Researchers Blending to Make Milk Better
March 19, 2013 - News Release
Better kinds of milk are the goals of University of Guelph researchers looking to improve production and processing of a Canadian product already known for outstanding quality.
Food science professor Milena Corredig, holder of the NSERC/Ontario Dairy Council Chair, belongs to an interdisciplinary research team whose projects start on the farm and end with new dairy products for consumers.
She aims to improve the composition of milk to help build muscle, for example, or prevent cancer and dementia. These health benefits arise from redistributing and concentrating fats and proteins already found in milk.
Referring to foods that help improve health or prevent disease, Corredig says, “Milk is already the ultimate functional food, but why not make it even better?”
The work starts in dairy parlours, where pathobiology professor Bonnie Mallard is looking for cows with genetic traits for the best milk production and disease resistance. Another team, led by Prof. John Cant, Animal and Poultry Science, looks at how altering cows’ feed changes the ratio and kinds of fats and proteins in their milk.
In the lab, Corredig’s team will work with Filippo Miglior, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to analyze more than 2,000 milk samples from Canadian cows. They aim to determine the number, size and kinds of fats, proteins and other milk components that help improve human health.
Fat and protein molecules work differently based on their size. By breaking apart or fractionating milk, researchers may alter proportions of specific fats and proteins to lend new functional properties.
Corredig believes the findings may lead to infant feeding formulas with specific nutritional qualities.
“It is an exciting time to be in the middle of the agriculture-to-health continuum, but it’s a challenge, as creating change in these industries requires a lot of knowledge transfer between various disciplines as well as changes in regulations.”
Through this project, she says, Guelph scientists will learn how to use genetics and nutrition and improve processes to create new products.
This research has been funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Ontario Dairy Council and other industry partners.
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