The Journal of nutrition

Whey protein processing influences formula-induced gut maturation in preterm pigs.

PMID 24047702


Immaturity of the gut predisposes preterm infants to nutritional challenges potentially leading to clinical complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis. Feeding milk formulas is associated with greater risk than fresh colostrum or milk, probably due to loss of bioactive proteins (e.g., immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, insulin-like growth factor, transforming growth factor-β) during industrial processing (e.g., pasteurization, filtration, spray-drying). We hypothesized that the processing method for whey protein concentrate (WPC) would affect gut maturation in formula-fed preterm pigs used as a model for preterm infants. Fifty-five caesarean-delivered preterm pigs were distributed into 4 groups given 1 of 4 isoenergetic diets: formula containing conventional WPC (filtration, multi-pasteurization, standard spray-drying) (CF); formula containing gently treated WPC (reduced filtration and pasteurization, gentle spray-drying) (GF); formula containing minimally treated WPC (rennet precipitation, reduced filtration, heat treatment <40°C, freeze-drying) (MF); and bovine colostrum (used as a positive reference group) (BC). Relative to CF, GF, and MF pigs, BC pigs had greater villus heights, lactose digestion, and absorption and lower gut permeability (P < 0.05). MF and BC pigs had greater plasma citrulline concentrations than CF and GF pigs and intestinal interleukin-8 was lower in BC pigs than in the other groups (P < 0.05). MF pigs had lower concentrations of intestinal claudin-4, cleaved caspase-3, and phosphorylated c-Jun than CF pigs (P < 0.05). The conventional and gently treated WPCs had similar efficacy in stimulating proliferation of porcine intestinal epithelial cells. We conclude that processing of WPC affects intestinal structure, function, and integrity when included in formulas for preterm pigs. Optimization of WPC processing technology may be important to preserve the bioactivity and nutritional value of formulas for sensitive newborns.