Scientists evaluate whey permeate for food aid

Press release Published: 29/10/2012

What are the benefits of whey permeate in treating small children with moderate malnutrition? Human nutrition experts at University of Copenhagen evaluate the potential in a new report.

Whey permeate has passed the taste and tolerance test as an ingredient in food aid for moderately malnourished children. Soon a study in Malawi will investigate whether permeate actually promotes children’s recovery and healthy growth when used along with whey protein concentrate in ready-to-use supplementary food (RUSF).
But what is it about whey permeate that makes it an interesting ingredient for food aid? 
A new report from the Institute of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at University of Copenhagen has investigated the nutritional value.

High lactose content
While the report highlights breast milk as the absolute best source of nutrients for infants and young children, the fact that it is not always available points to the need to optimise food aid with key nutrients.
One of the primary focus areas of the report is the high lactose content of permeate.
“Maternal breast milk has almost twice the lactose content of bovine milk. Research indicates that lactose is good for immature digestive systems,” says Professor Kim Fleischer Michaelsen, one of the authors of the report.
“Some studies have found that it stimulates the absorption of minerals, while others have observed stimulation of the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This prebiotic effect can contribute to a stronger digestive and immune system.”

Partial sucrose substitute
Like milk and milk powder, pure lactose is considered an expensive component in food aid products. Permeate is both a cheaper alternative and a source of important milk minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and chloride – all important contributors to healthy growth and development.
The development of new RUSF formulations has looked at permeate as a partial substitute for sucrose, which is used to increase energy density. In addition to contributing minerals, permeate provides a sweet dairy flavour and has the advantage of being less cariogenic than sucrose.