In what’s believed to be a world first, research is about to begin on a clinical trial to test the benefits of sheep milk for human digestion.
More and more of us suffer from digestive issues with milk, however, research by AgResearch has demonstrated that sheep milk could offer advantages for some in terms of easier digestion and improved nutrition.
“Based on the literature we have seen, there has been no human clinical trial like this before measuring the digestibility of sheep milk,” says AgResearch senior scientist Dr Linda Samuelsson.
Over the coming months Dr Samuelsson and her team we will be working with people who have difficulty digesting milk. “They will be asked to consume a specified amount, and we’ll be looking at how they feel after drinking, and measuring their digestion using blood and breath tests,” she says.
Preliminary results suggest that sheep milk proteins are more readily digested and are a better source of essential amino acids.
“Sheep milk is very different from cow milk. We know that it has more nutrients per glass: more protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. For example, sheep milk has almost twice the level of calcium and zinc, when compared to cow milk. There are also differences in the protein and fat types which we think will alter the digestive properties of sheep milk,” says Liggins Institute Research Fellow Dr Amber Milan – also working on the project.
New Zealand now boasts more than 20,000 sheep for milking at 16 different producers, and significant new investment is going into milk processing and supply to overseas markets.
Sheep milk products from New Zealand are currently being exported to growth markets such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
According to consumers in the Asian market, another benefit of sheep milk is how the ‘heat’ of the milk ‘creates less inner heat’ than other milks, meaning that it is gentler on the digestive system.