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Can MFGM boost babies' brains

It’s been popularly called a ‘superfood ingredient’ alongside lactoferrin. Now MFGM (Milk Fat Globule Membrane) is creating quite a stir in the infant formula industry.

Anne B. Lau Heckmann
Anne B. Lau Heckmann Pediatric Research Scientist, Arla Foods Ingredients

By Anne Lau Heckmann, Pediatric Research Scientist, Arla Foods Ingredients

Can MFGM boost babies’ brains?

Of course, we all know that human milk will always be best for babies. Charlotte Vallaeys, senior policy analyst for the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports puts it well when she writes: “Breast milk is an infant’s natural food, a living food that has hundreds or thousands of nutrients and components, many of which scientists haven’t even identified or understand fully.” But we now have promising evidence that MFGM brings formula closer to mother’s milk, conferring similar cognitive benefits and other positive effects.

What is MFGM?
Basically, the fat globules in milk are surrounded by a membrane containing many bioactive components vital for the healthy development of a baby’s brain and cognition, the immune system and the gut. Our MFGM product is a natural whey protein concentration of these ingredients.

A recent study performed by Hero (Timby et al. 2014) has shown that feeding infants formula supplemented with MFGM (in this case our Lacprodan® MFGM-10) results in noticeably improved cognitive development at year one compared with a standard formula – performing at a similar level to a breastfed group. 

We also saw in a study performed in Peru that there was a significant reduction in the cases of diarrhea in 6 to 11-month old infants who consumed MFGM in their complementary food, which suggests a healthier gut and increased ability to fight infections. These results are very exciting, particularly for children at risk of gastric complications, and encourage us to continue to investigate potential uses for MFGM in the future.

It’s our baby
These days, we’re hearing a lot of discussion about MFGM at conferences and the like. Both at scientific and commercial levels. In fact, one of the toughest tasks may be how formula manufacturers should communicate its benefits. Because when you have a new addition to formula that has such a range of effects, which one should you focus on? How do you get parents to understand the value of this discovery?

In any case, it seems the new ingredient has already grabbed some attention with parents, who are far more proactive and informed these days when it comes to understanding infant nutrition and choosing the best food products for their offspring. So MFGM looks set for a bright future in infant formula recipes.

Of course, as a pediatric research scientist, anything that can significantly impact the early development of children is of great interest to me. And MFGM as a supplement in formula is particularly interesting because it was developed here at Arla Foods Ingredients – so this specific area is, in fact, ‘our baby’. 

More to discover
There is still so much to figure out with MFGM. We are currently researching which components of this ingredient are responsible for which positive effects: Is it the same component that does everything, or the interplay of several components? And, while we can see some of the overall effects, we are still trying to establish what the actual underlying mechanisms are.



‘Superfood ingredient’

HERO study link:

What´s MFGM?

Using infant formulas is second to breastfeeding, a fact supported by WHO. This blog contains material and information intended for B2B customers, suppliers and distributors, and is not intended as information to the final consumers. 

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This blog is a medium for all industry experts to share knowledge about and viewpoints on whey protein and lactose - and, in particular, their documented or potential benefits to the world.

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