SMiL Special Milk Lipids for Health

Medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) comprise about 10 % of the fat found in cow milk. MCFAs have been shown to increase satiety and improve metabolic syndrome. The high content of MCFAs is a unique feature of milk fat, and consequently, it is relevant to obtain a better understanding of potential effects of the MCFAs on human health. The aim of the project is to develop a method for producing health-promoting milk fractions, and subsequently investigate the mechanism and effect of MCFAs in relation to obesity and type 2-diabetes.

By: Grith Mortensen

Milk fat comprises the most complex composition of all natural fats due to the large variety of fatty acids (FA), thus the diversity of triacylglycerol (TG) species is enormous. Therefore, milk fat is difficult to fractionate compared to e.g. palm oil. Common fractionation technologies based on difference in melting point to obtain a soft and hard fraction of milk fat do not result in an enrichment of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in any of the fractions.

The purpose of the project is to identify which MCFAs the milk should primarily be enriched with, establish biomarkers to determine MCFA-driven effects, and test whether the new MCFA-enriched milk fat can counteract insulin sensitivity induced by overfeeding with a high-fat diet in humans. This is achieved by combining selection of the optimal raw material, testing dry fractionation and so-called "short path" distillation to generate milk fat fractions with 2-3 times more MCFA content than regular milk. The new MCFA-enriched milk is characterized using mass spectrophotometry-based lipidomics, and milk fractions are produced for use in human testing. At the University of Copenhagen, the mechanisms by which different MCFAs improve the health of mice and humans are being investigated - including an evaluation of which MCFAs have the greatest positive health effect.

It is the ambition - by combining state-of-the-art technology and biology - to create the foundation for the development and production of new dairy-based products or ingredients that may be an important part of healthy diets combating obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Project period: January 2021-December 2024

Budget: 10,380,000 DKK

Financing: Milk Levy Fund, Arla Food for Health, Novo Nordisk Foundation

Project manager: Bente Kiens

Institution: Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen

Participants: Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food Science and Department of Engineering, Aarhus University


Publications and presentations

Initial article published in Mælkeritidende:

Mælkeritidende 2023 No. 3


The results originating from the project will be published on this page when they become publicly available.

Grith Mælk 1

Grith Mortensen

Chefkonsulent, Branchesekretariat mejeri, Landbrug & Fødevarer/Skejby

Mobil: 40964114