New NutriSen study shows positive effects of adding MFGM and milk protein to the diet of seniors

Valio collaborated with leading Finnish nutritional scientists to study the impact of partially hydrolysed high-protein milk products rich in MFGM on the physical functioning of the elderly. The results showed significant benefits to balance and physical performance, even without added exercise.

Study focuses on the benefits of MFGM and protein from nutrition instead of supplements

“We wanted to isolate the effects of nutrition — specifically partially hydrolysed, high-protein milk products rich in MFGM— from exercise, which has been a component in most, if not all of the previous studies conducted in this particular field,” says Anu Turpeinen, PhD, Nutrition Research Manager at Valio.

The benefits of milk fat globule membrane (MFGM), which is a unique component of cow’s milk fat that is not found in vegetable oils, have been studied previously with seniors with promising results. MFGM contains complex lipids, such as phospholipids, that are necessary for the brain and the nervous system and have been shown to stimulate neuromuscular function in earlier studies. Hydrolysed protein is absorbed more easily, and it usually causes fewer gastrointestinal issues.

In previous studies, the participants have been given their additional MFGM as supplements or capsules. However, in the NutriSen study, the participants were given a powder or a ready-to-drink product that contained 23 g hydrolysed protein and 3 g MFGM, for daily consumption.

The milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) is a unique component of cow’s milk fat that is not found in vegetable oils.

Study suggests nutrition can benefit physical performance even without exercise

The study followed 101 Finnish women, aged 70 or over, for 12 weeks. The group was divided into an intervention group (n=51) and a control group (n=50). The studied women were all able to move independently but showed some signs of sarcopenia or slight deficits in physical functioning in the baseline tests.

Physical performance was tested for both groups by measuring hand grip strength and SPPB (short physical performance battery), which includes testing balance, walking speed, and the ability to rise from a chair unaided. Both groups were tested twice, at baseline and the end of the study.

Previous studies have also included exercise interventions, so to rule out the effect of exercise in this study, both groups were given the same, minimal guidance.

The intervention group showed significant improvement in balance and the general SPPB score compared to the control group. This suggests that the effect of nutrition can be beneficial to physical performance even without additional exercise.

“Next, we are planning a second study that focuses on the possible cognitive benefits on elderly individuals with issues in cognitive functioning,” Turpeinen adds.

The intervention group showed significant improvement in balance and the general SPPB score compared to the control group.

“Chocolate shake made me happy” – ready-to-drink application was delicious and easy to use

The products used in the study were based on Valio’s buttermilk applications: a powder and a ready-to-drink shake. Most of the participants found the shake especially delicious and easy to use.

“The readiness to use a powder product is comparatively low in Finland, as many elderly consumers are not used to them in their everyday lives. For example, in South Korea, consumers are much more interested in milk protein powders. This is why it’s so good that we can provide different kinds of applications for different markets,” says Emma Laivisto, Customer Development Manager, Special Nutrition at Valio.

While the participants were not asked to give feedback on the flavour of the products, one reply in particular suggests it played a role: “Chocolate shake made me happy”.

“The importance of flavour can be overlooked when creating a functional dietary product, but in the end, food is more than just sustenance. People want to enjoy it at every age, and that’s exactly where Valio’s different applications can help,” Laivisto concludes.

White paper: The intake of phospholipids from nutrition is necessary throughout adulthood
Nutrition for healthy aging