LSU AgCenter replacement drink

LSU food science graduate students Pitchayapat Chonpracha, left, Valentina Rosasco Silva pour samples of a milk-based meal replacement drink into small cups during a visit to a metabolic kitchen at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The meal replacement drink is the result of a partnership between the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator and Pennington Biomedical. Frank Greenway, a Pennington Biomedical professor working on the project, is in the background.

PROVIDED PHOTO BY OLIVIA MCCLURE

A milk-based meal replacement drink powder developed by researchers from two LSU institutions could help people safely lose weight, including those who normally cannot drink milk because of digestive issues.

The drink mix is the first in a series of consumer products that AgCenter Food Incubator and Pennington Biomedical Research Center scientists hope to develop together. Commercialization is being explored, with incubator director Gaye Sandoz looking into packaging and marketing options.

“This was an initial, and successful, effort toward the larger goal of product development between Pennington and the AgCenter,” said David Winwood, associate executive director for business development at Pennington Biomedical.

"The meal replacement product is the first, but we envision innovative snack foods, prepared meals and foods for athletic performance advancing past traditional supplements," said Louise Wicker, director of the AgCenter School of Nutrition and Food Sciences.

The team has produced chocolate and vanilla flavors of the drink powder as well as a candy meant to be eaten as a supplement to the meal replacement shake-based diet. They plan to offer the products to participants in upcoming Pennington Biomedical clinical trials focused on obesity and linked ailments such as diabetes, which are major problems in Louisiana.

Studies have shown that drinking meal replacement shakes in lieu of meals for 12 weeks is an effective, safe way to lose weight, said Frank Greenway, a Pennington Biomedical professor working on the project. A few types of shakes are on the market, and most contain a few hundred calories per serving.

Pennington Biomedical researchers specified how many calories and how much fat they wanted each of the products to contain.

Some scientists have suggested milk as a basis for that kind of dieting program.

“Milk is something that mothers give to babies, and that’s their whole diet basically,” said Greenway, who also is Pennington Biomedical’s chief medical officer.

The drink powder developed is made from a2 Milk, which contains a protein that makes it easier to digest than regular milk. Beta casein is the protein found in milk, and there are two types: A1 and A2, which break down differently.

Some people respond negatively to the way A1 is digested. Symptoms mimic those felt when a lactose intolerant person drinks milk.

Not everyone can drink cows’ milk that is sold at grocery stores. At milking time on dairy farms, cows typically are not separated by which type of beta casein protein they make.

“Probably 60 percent of cows have A2 and 40 percent have A1,” Greenway said. “But all of the milk that’s in our grocery stores that you’re going to buy and drink has A1 in it.”

A New Zealand company that only milks cows with A2 protein sells that product under the brand name a2 Milk. The company donated milk to Pennington Biomedical for the meal replacement drink project, Greenway said.

Ashley Gutierrez, a food technologist with the AgCenter Food Incubator, and School of Nutrition and Food Sciences graduate students Pitchayapat Chonpracha and Valentina Rosasco Silva formulated two flavors of drink mix powders and also used the powders to make candy.

“Translating Pennington’s research into products using the AgCenter’s expertise in the Food Incubator will help meet needs in Louisiana for foods that have health benefits," Wicker said.