Sheep wool offers a source of healthier diets for pets

Proteins from wool can be added to the diets of animals to improve their health, AgResearch scientists have shown.

The positive findings in the diets of domestic cats open up exciting possibilities for new uses of sheep wool to improve digestive health for a broader range of animals, and potentially human beings.

The findings have just been published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Food & Function journal and are available by clicking here.

“There is a lot of work going on to discover new uses of wool to support the sheep industry in New Zealand,” says Dr Jolon Dyer, AgResearch’s Science Group Leader for Food and Bio-based Products.

“The research is telling us that sheep wool has many useful attributes, and one of those now appears to be proteins derived from the wool that could be used as a dietary supplement to improve digestion and nutrition, and therefore overall health.”

Scientists used a method called controlled hydrolysis to extract the wool proteins. These protein hydrolysates taken from the wool were then added as an ingredient in a pet food formulation targeted towards cats, and compared against standard cat food formulations.

The findings indicate that the wool protein hydrolysates offer promise as a functional ingredient in pet foods, and also as a new nutritional ingredient in foods generally.

AgResearch senior scientist Dr Santanu Deb-Choudhury, who led the study with fellow scientist Dr Emma Bermingham, says the hydrolysates offer real potential as a supplement for pet diets.

The next steps for the research will be to study the effect of the wool hydrolysate on animals other than cats.

There’s big potential in terms of how this can add to the wellbeing of pets and other animals, and even people, but further research is needed, Dr Deb-Choudhury says.

Source:  AgResearch

AgResearch wins funding for High Value Nutrition projects

Beef that can reduce cholesterol levels, milk that reduces the risk of allergies in children and cow’s milk for people who are dairy-intolerant are the aims of AgResearch’s three successful projects in the latest High Value Nutrition contestable funding round.

The High Value Nutrition National Science Challenge’s focuses on foods with scientifically validated health benefits.

The research aims to increase value for New Zealand through proven health claims for food and beverage exports.

All three projects are funded for three years with $1 million each from the Challenge as well as co-investment from industry partners.

“Complex beef lipids for metabolic health” is led by Dr Emma Bermingham. She says meat from grass-fed animals may contain bioactive complex lipids that have the potential to improve metabolic health.

“We want to provide robust scientific evidence that consuming complex lipids extracted from New Zealand grass-fed red meat will lead to reduced cholesterol levels,” she says.

“We are working with Hawkes Bay company Firstlight Foods, which produces premium grass-fed Wagyu beef. We want to extract and understand the lipids from the fat, to both determine the health claims that can be made and also to develop a new range of products based on these.”

Reducing the risks of developing allergies in children is the aim of the project “Natural protection of milk” led by Dr Alison Hodgkinson. She is partnering with Miraka, the Māori-owned dairy processing and exporting company which is aiming to expand its business by diversifying into higher-value dairy products.

“There is an opportunity for ‘Growing Up’ – that is, toddler – milk powder that preserves the natural properties of milk, but in a safe, pasteurised, format. There’s a clear association between drinking farm milk and reduced incidence of allergy, but so far, there’s no processed milk product that retains those properties,” she says.

“With Miraka, we will develop a Growing Up milk product that retains the natural traits of milk and is proven to deliver added health benefits to toddlers.”

The third project, “a2 Milk™ for gut comfort”, is aimed at demonstrating the health benefits of a2 Milk for people who believe they are intolerant to cows’ milk and is led by Dr Matthew Barnett.

“We will be running human clinical studies to confirm the benefits of dairy products that are exclusively of the A2 protein type on increased gut comfort through preventing intestinal inflammation in some consumers,” he says.

“We’re partnering with the a2 Milk™ Company to show that their product can deliver the benefits of dairy to the rapidly growing dairy export markets of China and Southeast Asia, where many consumers believe they’re intolerant to dairy. If we’re successful, there’s a potential for significant increase in demand and revenue for the New Zealand dairy sector.”

Both this project and “Complex beef lipids for metabolic health” will involve clinical nutrition capability from the University of Auckland led by Professor David Cameron-Smith.

The funding announcement follows AgResearch’s success in the Priority Research programme, where it received $3.6 million for research into the relationship between nutrition and gut health.

AgResearch is working with four other teams that have  received grants in the Priority Research programme. They are Immune Health, led by the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research; Metabolic Health, led by the University of Auckland; and preliminary projects led by Massey University on the food science of health foods, and by Plant & Food Research on consumer insights in relation to food-for-health in our key markets with a focus on Asia.