The University of Limerick will take the lead in Phase 2 of Food for Health Ireland’s (FHI) research programme to explore the role of milk proteins in healthy ageing and performance nutrition.

Professor of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Phil Jakeman, who is the lead PI for FHI’s Healthy Ageing and Performance Nutrition Health Pillar, explains the research; “Our principal expertise is in human skeletal muscle. Healthy active ageing and improving sports performance have a lot in common as far as muscle is concerned. As we age the amount of muscle and lean tissue mass begins to decrease. This can lead to frailty, disability and loss of independence in older adults. Conversely, high-performance athletes generally try to increase muscle mass and muscle function that has to recover and adapt quickly to sustain and improve optimal performance. Many of the nutrient and metabolic regulators of these effects on muscle in ageing and performance overlap.”

Can milk, specifically the proteins within milk, help older people and athletes to rebuild their muscle and to recover quickly for the next race, respectively? “Over the next five years the Healthy Ageing and Performance Nutrition research team will be investigating whether milk proteins and their bioactive derivatives have the potential to be of benefit to these two population groups. This is an exciting Health Pillar within the FHI2 programme. Using a multidisciplinary approach we seek to develop and evaluate a range of naturally produced, milk-based, bioactive ingredients for incorporation into food matrices targeting the area of muscle health“

Professor Dick FitzGerald, Department of Life Sciences, UL is also working on this project. He explains his area of interest. “Milk is a valuable and highly complex biological material, composed of multiple constituents such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. In FHI2, milk is the source material potentially providing an innovative pipeline of bio-functional ingredients to the consumer market." "We are using enzymes, natural food-grade catalysts, to breakdown the proteins in milk to release a new range of biofunctional ingredients, known as peptides, which may have a positive impact on human health. Our work brings together diverse expertise, for example, protein chemistry, separation science and biochemistry, where milk proteins are specifically modified to release a number of potential health benefits. 

This research provides a pipeline of new generation ingredients that support Professor Jakeman and other researchers within the FHI programme investigating the effect of milk peptides on healthy ageing, glycaemic and appetite management.“ Other Principal Investigators on this project are Dr Brian Carson (PESS), Dr Pat Kiely and Professor Sean Arkins from the Department of Life Sciences. ood for Health Ireland is one of the biggest technology centres in Ireland and its purpose is to identify novel ingredients coming from milk to develop functional food ingredients which will offer health benefits to consumers. Phase 2 of the FHI programme is a €21.7m, 5 year programme funded by Enterprise Ireland and Carbery, Dairygold, Glanbia, the Kerry Group, and the Irish Dairy Board. The research will be carried out by scientists in the 7 major Irish public research organisations and is to focus on infant nutrition, healthy cheese, healthy ageing and performance nutrition and products that can be used to manage elevated glucose levels, for example in Type 2 diabetics.