Studies Show That Milk Fats Help Improve Response to Day-to-day Stress

A new study led by experts from Fonterra, the University of Auckland, and the University of Otago has revealed that supplementing diets with broad-spectrum phospholipids found naturally in milk fat globule membranes (MFGM) reduces stress.

Project EMPOWER (Employing Milk Phospholipids to Observe Wellbeing Emotional Resiliency) aimed to enrich research in the phospholipids field. The full research paper has been accepted and published in the Journal of Functional Foods.

Study extends current research on the role of milk derived phospholipids in reducing stress

Overall, the EMPOWER study found a statistically significant 45% reduction in mean stress scores, compared to 21% in the placebo group. This proves an effective link between supplementing with Nutiani Phospholipids and participants’ stress response.

Researchers examined adults aged between 25 to 60 years old residing in New Zealand. Participants received either Nutiani Phospholipids (Fonterra’s MFGM rich powder) or a maltodextrin placebo. They consumed one serving every day for 12 weeks mixed into drinks like smoothies, milk, or water, or sprinkled over breakfast cereal.

Unlike single phospholipid sources, Nutiani Phospholipids are broad-spectrum phospholipids, containing a range of major phospholipids and sphingolipids – including Phosphatidylserine, Phosphatidylcholine, Phosphatidylethanolamine, Phosphatidylinositol, and Sphingomyelin. Each of these is present in a similar proportion to that of the human brain.

After a check-in on week six and at the end of the 12 weeks, it was found that the group given 300mg of broad-spectrum phospholipids reported significantly lower stress scores than the placebo group.

Dr. Maher Fuad, (MBChB, MPH,PhD,PGDip Clinical Research), Research Clinician/ Health and Nutrition Science Team, Fonterra, says the findings extend current literature around the role of milk sourced, broad-spectrum phospholipids in reducing stress symptoms.

“These findings are consistent with previous work demonstrating that supplementation with broad-spectrum phospholipids improve the response to a stressful situation.”

Dr. Fuad adds there was also a strong suggestion that supplementation of broad-spectrum phospholipids can reduce anxiety from day one, though further testing is required.

Participants who took a higher dose containing 600mg of broad-spectrum phospholipids from MFGM demonstrated significantly lower stress scores after six weeks but not 12. This signals there may be an optimal dose of MFGM and to reduce stress symptoms, which will be further explored in future studies.

The study’s results provide more clinical substantiation for the science and wellbeing fields to help consumers understand and make the best use of milk derived phospholipids in their everyday lives,”

– Dr Fuad

Dr. Fuad, who is a co-author of the paper, will be presenting this research at the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) 2023 Congress in Nantes, France from 2 July to 5 July 2023.

The effect of supplementation with milk fat globule membranes on psychological health: A randomized clinical trial in healthy adults with moderate stress, Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 105, 2023, 105585. ISSN 1756-4646,

Abstract of EMPOWER Study:
Polar lipids are integral to nervous system function and are implicated in cognitive performance and psychological response to situational stress. Milk fat globule membranes (MFGM) are a rich source of complex lipids and membrane proteins. This study aimed to test the effect of two doses of MFGM supplementation on stress, psychological outcomes, and cortisol response. Healthy adults (n = 122) enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Participants received MFGM 600 mg (containing 300 mg milk phospholipids), MFGM 1200 mg (containing 600 mg milk phospholipids), or placebo daily for 12 weeks. At baseline, six weeks, and 12 weeks, questionnaires assessed psychological outcomes and sleep quality. Awakening cortisol concentration was measured from saliva. Participants supplemented with MFGM had significantly lower stress scores than the placebo group after six weeks (p = 0.0004) and 12 weeks (p = 0.002). There was a suggestion that MFGM supplementation reduced anxiety after 12 weeks (p = 0.06). MFGM supplementation may improve general psychological health beyond situational stress.

Images: Envato

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