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Food aid project investigates whey permeate

Press Release   •   Feb 07, 2011 18:00 GMT

Arla Foods Ingredients sponsors project to identify optimum, affordable nutrition for undernourished children

Fortified blends of corn and soya have been the standard food aid given to millions of moderately undernourished children in developing countries for more than 30 years.
But only over the past few years has it become widely recognised that these blends are inadequate. Due to the blends’ content of anti-nutritional factors, children are unable to absorb many of the vital nutrients they contain.
Arla Foods Ingredients is one of the sponsors behind an extensive research project initiated by human nutrition experts at the University of Copenhagen. Backed by the Danish International Development Agency (Danida), the project aims to develop affordable food aid that supports child growth and development.
Essential dairy factor
Leading the overall project are Professors Kim Fleischer Michaelsen and Henrik Friis. Both recognise milk and its components as an essential ingredient in future nutritional solutions for the world’s 36 million moderately undernourished children. 
“If we had enough money, we know exactly how to treat undernourishment. But it has to be cheap, and milk is expensive. That is why we have focused on how much or how little milk makes a difference,” Michaelsen states.
Low-cost potential
Arla Foods Ingredients is subsidising a PhD study of corn-soya blends supplemented with Variolac® 850 whey permeate and fed to piglets.
As whey permeate is both low in cost and rich in some important minerals, the aim of the study is to investigate the potential positive impact on growth. Pigs are considered a useful model because of their similar gastrointestinal function to humans.
“This is the first time whey permeate has been studied from a human nutrition perspective,”  says PhD student, Anne Louise Hother. “The results will determine whether permeate is of sufficient interest to warrant further studies.”
New look at nutrition
Studies of this nature have not been conducted since the 1960s – a time lapse that emphasises the need to take another look at which nutrition works best.
Associate professor Thomas Thymann developed the pig model for the study, where four-week old piglets were initially fed a pure corn diet for seven weeks.
For the three weeks that followed, the piglets received either the standard human food aid – a corn-soya blend – or a corn-soya blend supplemented with 8% Variolac® 850 whey permeate from Arla Foods Ingredients.