Nestlé files whey world patent: Lactoferrin for infant memory and learning

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

'Lactoferrin should have a significant impact on brain structure and function from foetus to later life,' Nestlé writes in patent
'Lactoferrin should have a significant impact on brain structure and function from foetus to later life,' Nestlé writes in patent

Related tags Nutrition Milk European food safety authority

Nestlé has filed an international patent for the whey fraction lactoferrin to improve memory, learning speed and promote brain maturation in children.

In the patent​, the company refers to studies with piglets to demonstrate this possible health benefit. It said animal studies had suggested that the possible health effect could be down to sialic acid content, of which there were one to four residues for every lactoferrin molecule.

It was thus considered by the inventors that lactoferrin might have a role as a conditional nutrient for the infants' brain development and cognitive function when brain undergoes rapid growth. If so, early ingestion of lactoferrin should have a significant impact on brain structure and function from foetus to later life,” ​the company wrote.

It could be used for food products, animal food products, pharmaceutical compositions, nutritional formulations, nutriceuticals, drinks, food additives and infant feeding formulas. Dosages would depend on the size and development stage of the infant. 

Nestlé said mother’s milk was recommended for all infants, but this invention was intended for when practical or health reasons meant this was not possible or advisable. Lactoferrin is the second most abundant form of protein in human milk, with casein being the first.

It said lactoferrin demonstrated many other biological functions for infants such as regulation of iron absorption in the bowel, immune response, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory properties and protection against microbial infection.

In 2013 the company filed a patent for lactoferrin and the reduction of diarrhoea​, again referencing studies with piglets.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruled that bovine lactoferrin was safe​ for use in foods and food supplements back in mid-2012 following a novel food application from FrieslandCampina.

According to the register of EU health claims, EFSA has rejected four health claim submissions relating to lactoferrin for improved natural defences​, increased levels of ScIgA​ on mucous membranes and therefore a decreased risk of colds and sore throats, the prevention of acne​ and finally, intestinal wellbeing​. All four submissions were rejected on the basis of scientific evidence and in one case because the effect would have equated to a disease claim.

Lactoferrin could be obtained from a variety of sources either by purification from a natural source like human or non-human milk or whey, or could be produced synthetically.  

Milk and whey fractions could be enriched with lactoferrin or it could be used as a pure compound. It could also be used in combination with probiotics and prebiotics as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. 

The type of protein was not believed to be important to this invention.

Thinking about cognition

Cognition refers to information processing abilities including perception, learning, memory, judgement and problem solving.

“In particular, memory is an organism's mental ability to store, retain and recall information. Memory phenomena that can be examined include: knowledge (what to remember), comprehension (what does it mean); context/function (why to remember); and strategy (how to remember). Memory is a complex psychological process that is not independent of a single memory domain process. Memory is related to several other cognition domains including, sensory memory, audio memory and visual memory,”​ Nestlé wrote.


Source: WIPO Patents

Patent Owner: Nestlé

Date Filed: 27.06.2014

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1 comment

marketing claim or process patent

Posted by naga,

is this application a marketing claim registration or a process patent for the extraction of lactoferrin?

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