Benefits of sheep milk to be tested in ground-breaking trial

AgResearch is about to begin a clinical trial to test the benefits of sheep milk for human digestion.

The trial, believed to be a world first, will involve AgResearch scientists working alongside those at the Auckland University’s Liggins Institute, with support from Spring Sheep Milk Co. and Blue River Dairy. It coincides with a period of rapid growth for the dairy sheep industry in New Zealand.

Some people suffer from digestive issues with milk and work to date by AgResearch has demonstrated sheep milk could offer advantages for some in terms of easier digestion and improved nutrition.

“Based on the literature we have seen, there has been no human clinical trial like this before measuring the digestibility of sheep milk,” says AgResearch senior scientist Dr Linda Samuelsson.

“We will be working with people who say they have some difficulty digesting milk. They will be asked to consume a specified amount, and we’ll be looking at how they feel after drinking, and measuring their digestion using blood and breath tests.”

Andrea Wilkins, Marketing and Innovation Director at Spring Sheep Milk Co. says one recent study compared the protein digestibility of sheep and cow milk – with results suggesting sheep milk proteins are more readily digested and are a better source of essential amino acids.

“Taking into account the research to date along with consumer feedback we’ve received, we know that sheep’s milk is great for those who are sensitive to cow’s milk. So, we’re really excited about what this clinical trial means for us and for the New Zealand sheep milk industry as a whole.”

Liggins Institute Research Fellow Dr Amber Milan says the trial subjects will be asked to drink both sheep and cow milk.

“Sheep milk is very different from cow milk. We know that it has more nutrients per glass: more protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. For example, sheep milk has almost twice the level of calcium and zinc, when compared to cow milk. There are also differences in the protein and fat types which we think will alter the digestive properties of sheep milk.”

Dr Samuelsson says the trial is expected to start in July and results should be available early next year.

“The aim is to provide information for consumers who may struggle with their digestion, and to provide solid evidence of the benefits of sheep milk to support New Zealand exports.”

New Zealand now has a flock of more than 20,000 sheep for milking at 16 different producers. Significant new investment is going into milk processing and supply to overseas markets.

Sheep milk products from New Zealand are being exported to growth markets such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Gareth Lyness, Marketing and Supply Chain Manager at Blue River Dairy says:

“There is already a latent awareness of the benefits of sheep milk. Asian consumers express these benefits in terms of how much ‘heat’ the milk brings to our bodies; Sheep milk is understood to ‘create less inner heat’ than other milks, meaning it is gentler on the digestive system.”

For more information on the clinical trial, visit HERE

Source: AgResearch

Study aims to to find if drinking a2 Milk™ helps lactose-intolerant people

The Liggins Institute needs lactose-intolerant Aucklanders for a study that researchers hope will make them better able to tolerate dairy.

The study participants will consume conventional cheese and milk for two weeks and a2 Milk cheese and milk for two weeks (with a recovery break between), to see if benefits of a2 Milk identified in an earlier study by the same researchers persist over a longer period.

That 2017 study, a collaboration between the Liggins Institute and AgResearch, found that a2 Milk prevents some symptoms of lactose intolerance and eases others, even though it contains the same amount of lactose as conventional milk.

Researchers showed a2 Milk was at least as effective as lactose-free milk at preventing or reducing some symptoms including nausea, stomach pain and bloating, but didn’t improve ratings of “overall digestive comfort”. It also produced the same levels of flatulence and gastric reflux as regular milk.

Globally, about 70 per cent of adults consider themselves lactose-intolerant and experience bloating, nausea or other unpleasant symptoms after consuming dairy products.

The study lead, Dr Amber Milan, a research fellow at the Liggins Institute, says:

“We already know that lactose-intolerant people can sometimes build up their tolerance to lactose over time by including lactose or milk in their diet.

“If we can help that process along, hopefully we can improve digestion of lactose after just a few weeks. We’re hopeful that consuming dairy with only the A2 protein will reduce symptoms by avoiding inflammation that might make intolerance worse.”

Regular milk contains both the A1 and A2 types of beta-casein protein, a major milk protein, while a2 Milkcomes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 type.

AgResearch scientist Matthew Barnett explains:

“There is evidence from animal studies that a breakdown product of the A1 protein causes inflammation in the small intestine, which could make lactose intolerance symptoms worse.”

The new study, dubbed Los aMiGoS, has been designed to minimise uncomfortable symptoms by limiting daily lactose to the equivalent of two glasses of milk – an amount that is usually tolerable for people with lactose intolerance.

To spare participants unnecessary discomfort, researchers will top up their protein consumption with daily servings of cheese, which is nearly lactose-free. Cheese from a2 Milk has been especially created for the study. Neither the participants nor researchers will know which kind of dairy they’re consuming for each fortnight stretch.

Participants need to be aged 20-40, believe they are lactose-intolerant, and be willing to give this study a go. People interested in joining the study can find out more here.

The study is funded through High Value Nutrition to AgResearch and in partnership with the a2 Milk™ Company.

Source: Liggins Institute

 

Researchers find a2 Milk is digested differently to conventional milk

New research from New Zealand has found that a2 Milk™ prevents some symptoms of dairy intolerance and eases others, even though it contains the same amount of lactose as conventional cow’s milk.

The research findings were presented to a major conference in Chicago early this week.

A strikingly different pattern of digestive symptoms was found in people identified as lactose intolerant after drinking a2 milk compared to conventional milk, says study lead Dr Amber Milan, a Research Fellow at the University of Auckland-based Liggins Institute (see press statement HERE).

The institute is conducting the research jointly with AgResearch.

“a2 Milk was at least as effective as lactose-free milk at preventing or easing some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, including nausea, stomach pain and bloating, but didn’t reduce levels of flatulence and gastric reflux,” says Dr Milan.

“The women’s self-ratings of ‘overall digestive comfort’ were the same after a2 Milk™ as after regular milk, suggesting over the course of 12 hours, the other symptoms were unpleasant enough to not shift overall digestive comfort.”

Conventional milk contains both the A1 and A2 types of beta-casein, a protein comprising 25-30 per cent of total milk protein. It’s thought that originally all cows produced only the A2 protein type, and the A1 mutation appeared 5000-10,000 years ago. a2 Milk ™ comes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 type.

“There is some eevidence that the symptoms of lactose intolerance may be influenced by the proteins in milk,” says AgResearch senior research scientist Matthew Barnett.

“We wanted to investigate this more closely.”

Globally, about 70 per cent of adults consider themselves lactose intolerant, and experience bloating, nausea or other unpleasant symptoms after consuming it.

The study was the first to compare the digestive response to conventional milk, a2 Milk and lactose-free conventional milk between people who are able to digest lactose, people with lactose intolerance and people with dairy intolerance.

It was funded through the New Zealand Government High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge with co-funding from The a2 Milk Company Limited.

Participants were 30 healthy young women (aged 20-30, BMI in the normal range) who said they had trouble digesting milk, and a control group of 10 dairy-consuming women.

First they drank 50g of lactose – equivalent to about a litre of milk – to determine if they had lactose intolerance or not. Then, on three separate visits, the same women drank 750ml of the three types of milk.

Immediately after the women consumed the milk, and at 30 minute intervals for three hours, the researchers took blood, urine and breath samples, measured their waist, and performed MRI scans. The women also recorded how they felt for the 12 hours following consumption.

Analysis revealed that the lactose intolerant women:

    • Did not feel nauseous or have an urgent need to go to the toilet after drinking a2 Milk and lactose-free milk,but did after drinking conventional milk;
    • Had fewer bowel movements over the three hours both after a2 Milk™ and lactose-free milk compared to conventional milk;
    • Were half as likely to report abdominal pain, fullness and bloating over the course of 12 hours both after a2 Milkand lactose-free milk relative to conventional milk;
    • Experienced a smaller and later rise in breath hydrogen after a2 Milk versus conventional (breath hydrogen is a by-product of gut bacteria digesting any lactose that isn’t absorbed by the body, and is partly responsible for symptoms like bloating and flatulence);
    • Experienced the same levels of flatulence and gastric reflux after drinking a2 Milk and conventional milk, self-reported similar levels of “overall digestive discomfort” both after a2 Milk and conventional milk (lactose-free milk was rated most comfortable on this measure);
    • Experienced a higher spike in insulin levels immediately after drinking lactose-free milk, but not after a2 Milk and conventional milk (to be expected because lactose-free milk is created by breaking down lactose into two simple sugars). Spikes in insulin can affect metabolism in many ways, for example lowering blood sugar and making you feel hungrier sooner.

Dr Milan says animal studies show a breakdown product of the A1 protein causes inflammation in the small intestine, which seems to somehow exacerbate lactose intolerance.

“What our findings suggest is while we can’t fix the inability to digest lactose, we might be able to minimise the exacerbating action of the A1 protein.”

The researchers also showed that dairy intolerance is distinct from lactose intolerance. Dairy intolerant women reported all three milk types as equal in terms of digestive discomfort over the first three hours.

A planned second study by the same team will track the effects of a2 Milk on gut comfort over two weeks, focussing on small intestinal inflammation.