Nutrition and overall well-being impact the immune system at all ages

The COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers increasingly aware of the importance of a well-functioning immune system, and they are looking to make changes to their diet and lifestyle to support it. Dairy is a great element of a balanced everyday diet for all age groups, as it is naturally nutrient dense and a source of high-quality protein.

The human immune system is a sum of several factors. Genes and early childhood play a major role *1. Still, lifestyle and daily choices, such as nutrition, sleep, and activity, greatly contribute to the functioning of the immune system.

A varied diet of pure and high-quality foods is essential for staying healthy and active. Naturally nutrient-dense dairy ingredients provide food manufacturers a great way to design and produce nutritious food products for consumers looking to support their wellness and immune system.

Things to consider when looking to support the immune system with nutrition:

Optimal intake of protein is vital for wellbeing

Dairyprotein is an excellent source of high-quality protein. There are nine aminoacids that humans need to get from food, as the human body cannot synthesize them. Dairy protein contains all these nine essential amino acids. Our digestive system can absorb milk protein particularly well, which means that the body canutilize it effectively. Protein is needed for muscle and bone health in active life Read more about dairy protein.

Dairy contains many vitamins that contribute to the normal function of the immune system

Dairy is a source of many vitamins and minerals that the EFSA has labelled as contributing to the normal function of the immune system. These include vitamins B12 and D (in fortified dairy products), as well as selenium. As dairy is rich in these vitamins and minerals like calcium, a moderate consumption of dairy products can cover for a significant part of the daily recommended intake of these nutrients.

The immune system weakens with age – attention to the nutritional needs of the elderly

Adequate intake of high-quality protein is especially vital for healthy ageing. High-quality protein helps maintain muscle mass when ageing, which contributes to an active lifestyle and overall well-being in later life. Also, the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) and phospholipids found in milk fat have scientifically supported effects on functional ability *3,4,5,7,9, memory *2,6,12,14, mood, sociability and initiation *8, and intestinal health, all of which contribute to overall well-being when ageing. Read more about the nutritional needs of ageing adults.

Happy, active, and stress-free life supports the immune system

A good balance of high-quality nutrition, rest, and activity is the cornerstone of optimal immune function48. Busy working-age adults are looking for products to help them lead an active life and eat wellness-promoting food even in a hurry. Dairy products naturally provide nutrients like protein for muscle growth, calcium for maintenance of bones, vitamin B2 for the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and vitamin B12 for the normal function of the immune system. This provides food manufacturers with endless opportunities for high-protein, nutrient-dense food products that hit both the wellness trend and the convenience trend. Read about protein and consumer trends.

MFGM in milk fat has scientifically supported effects on the immune system of infants Early childhood is a crucial time in the development of the human immune system. Several studies have shown that MFGM has beneficial effects on the immune system of infants and children. Reported immune function benefits of MFGM supplementation in infants and children include lower prevalence of diarrhea *13, fewer days of fever *11, less use of antipyretics and less acute otitis media *10.

PODCAST: Harness the business potential of milk phospholipids

Older adults want to age healthily and enjoy good food. Phospholipids play an important role in cognitive ageing. Valio’s Nutrition Research Manager Anu Turpeinen talks about how food manufacturers can use phospholipids to create desirable products for the rapidly ageing population.

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Click on the links below to learn more about how we can develop your products with our dairy-based food solutions.

* References:

  1. Goenka A. Kollmann TR. Development of immunity in early life. The Journal of infection 2015;71(Suppl1):S112-S120.DOI: 10.1016/j.jinf.2015.04.027
  2. Crook TH, Tinklenberg J, Yesavage J, Petrie W, Nunzi MG, Massari DC. Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology 1991, 41:644–649.
  3. Hari S, Ochiai R, Shioya Y, Katsuragi Y. Safety evaluation of the consumption of high dose milk fat globule membrane in healthy adults: a double-blind, randomized controlled trial with parallel group design. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem2015;79(7):1172-7.
  4. Kim H, Suzuki T, Kim M et al. Effects of exercise and milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) supplementation on body composition, physical function, and hematological parameters in community-dwelling frail Japanese women: a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled, follow-up trial. PLoS One 2015;10(2):e0116256.
  5. Minegishi Y, Ota N, Soga S, Shimotoyodome A. Effects of Nutritional Supplementation with Milk Fat Globule Membrane on Physical and Muscle Function in Healthy Adults Aged 60 and Over with Semiweekly Light Exercise: A Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Trial. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2016;62(6):409-415. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.62.409.
  6. Olivera-Pueyo J, Pelegrín-Valero C. Dietary supplements for cognitive impairment. Actas Esp Psiquiatr 2017;45(Supplement):37-47.
  7. Ota N, Soga S, Hase T, Shimotoyodome A. Daily consumption of milk fat globule membrane plus habitual exercise improves physical performance in healthy middle-aged adults. Springerplus. 2015;4:120.
  8. Palmieri G, Palmieri R, Inzoli MR, Lombardi G, Sottini C, Tavolato B, Giometto B. Double-blind controlled trial of phosphatidylserine in patients with senile mental deterioration. Clin Trials J 1987;24(1): 73-83.
  9. Soga S, Ota N, Shimotoyodome A. Dietary milk fat globule membrane supplementation combined with regular exercise improves skeletal muscle strength in healthy adults: a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Nutr J. 2015;14:85.
  10. Timby N, Hernell O, Vaarala O, Melin M, Lönnerdal B, Domellöf M. Infections in infants fed formula supplemented with bovine milk fat globule membranes. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2015;60(3):384-9. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000624.
  11. Veereman-Wauters G, Staelens S, Rombaut R et al. Milk fat globule membrane (INPULSE) enriched formula milk decreases febrile episodes and may improve behavioral regulation in young children. Nutrition 2012;28(7-8):749-52. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2011.10.011
  12. Villardita C, Grioli S, Salmeri G. Multicentre clinical trial of brain phosphatidylserine in elderly patients with intellectual deterioration.Clin Trials J 1987, 24:84–93.
  13. Zavaleta N, Kvistgaard AS, Graverholt G et al. Efficacy of an MFGM-enriched complementary food in diarrhea, anemia, and micronutrient status in infants. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2011;53(5):561-8. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e318225cdaf.
  14. Schubert M, Contreras C, Franz N, Hellhammer J. Milk-based phospholipids increase morning cortisol availability and improve memory in chronically stressed men. Nutr Res 2011;31(6):413-20.
  15. Seiler A, Fagundes CP, Christian LM. The Impact of Everyday Stressors on the Immune System and Health. In: Choukèr A. (eds) Stress Challenges and Immunity in Space. Springer, Cham. 2020, p. 71-92.