Milk Fat Globule Membrane (MFGM) is a complex structure predominantly found surrounding fat globules in milk. Over recent years, scientific interest has surged concerning its potential health benefits, particularly in relation to gut health and disease prevention. Here, we delve into the specifics of MFGM and its promising implications for human health.
What is MFGM?
MFGM comprises a tri-layer of lipids and proteins, which envelops fat droplets in milk. Originally, its primary purpose was believed to be providing a physical barrier between the fat droplet and the surrounding aqueous environment in milk. However, advances in nutrition science have indicated its functional importance beyond mere structural integrity.
MFGM and gut health
MFGM components, such as phospholipids, glycoproteins, and sphingolipids, have shown potential benefits for gut health:
Gut barrier function
Phospholipids found in MFGM, particularly phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin, are believed to have a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the gut barrier. A robust gut barrier is vital for preventing unwanted molecules and pathogens from entering the bloodstream, thereby reducing inflammation and related diseases. 1
Some MFGM-derived proteins have prebiotic properties, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Such bacteria play a pivotal role in nutrient absorption, immunity, and overall gut health.2
Studies have indicated that MFGM might have anti-inflammatory properties, which can alleviate symptoms in inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.3
Beyond gut health, MFGM components have shown potential in disease prevention:
Certain lipids in MFGM, such as gangliosides and sialic acid, are essential for brain development. Studies suggest that MFGM supplementation might improve cognitive functions in infants.4
MFGM-derived phospholipids have been linked with reduced cholesterol absorption in the intestine, which could help in preventing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).5
Some proteins in MFGM have been found to exhibit antimicrobial properties, potentially aiding in preventing infections.6
While the potential health benefits of MFGM are promising, more rigorous clinical trials are needed to firmly establish these claims. Nonetheless, with the evidence available, MFGM undoubtedly holds a unique position in the realm of functional foods, offering myriad benefits for gut health and disease prevention.
- Timby, N. et al. (2017). ‘Influence of milk-protein based formulas containing lactoferrin and/or MFGM on gut health in infants’, Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition.
- Bourlieu, C. et al. (2015). ‘Structure–function relationships of the milk fat globule’, *Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care.
- Snow, D. R. et al. (2011). ‘The effect of glycomacropeptide on the intestinal microbiota of healthy adults’, Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
- Veereman-Wauters, G. et al. (2012). ‘Milk fat globule membrane (INPULSE) enriched formula milk decreases febrile episodes and may improve behavioural regulation in young children’. Nutrition.
- Baumgartner, S. et al. (2017). ‘Milk fat globule membrane supplementation in formula-fed rat pups improves reflex development and may alter brain lipid composition’, The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
- Le, T. T. et al. (2013). ‘Bovine milk fat globule membrane affects virulence expression in Escherichia coli O157:H7’, The Journal of Dairy Research.