Arla Food for Health Active call

The Arla Food for Health (AFH) Centre is pleased to announce the 5th call for ‘Expressions of Interest’, (EOI), for research projects to be funded in 2019.

Arla Food for Health (AFH) is a public-private research partnership between top ranked universities and the food industry – all of them engaged within dairy, new food solutions and nutrition research: University of Copenhagen, Aarhus University, Arla Foods amba and Arla Foods Ingredients.

The common vision is to Discover health effects of dairy and dairy ingredients.

The research center is based on the conviction that collaboration and partnerships through independent research activities, both nationally and internationally, are crucial for the ability to counteract several global health challenges.

The ambition is to push boundaries and foster world-class dairy science that subsequently can be applied in food design and new nutritional solutions with positive impact on global nutritional status and public health - and thereby create value for individuals, the society and the collaborating partners.

The AFH partners are committed to create impact and objectively disseminate the scientific insights developed through the AFH-projects. Moreover, the collaboration between the partners include a targeted and coordinated public outreach that can serve as basis for a science based nutrition and health dialogue with external stakeholders – including the industry, authorities, NGO’s and universities. Likewise, use of previous AFH-obtained scientific output in new research initiatives and education is of particular importance.

All partners in the Centre seek to better understand the role of dairy foods in healthy, sustainable eating patterns. In particular, AFH is interested in promoting advanced research methodologies related to the milk value chain i.e., identification/characterization of active milk components, isolation and scaling up of these, in vitro and in vivo documentation of health effects as well as the mechanism behind these effects. Validation of these effects in high quality human studies are of special interest.

AFH emphasizes the scientific quality of the research proposed. As the total yearly fund is DKK 10 mill., typically 2-3 projects have received funding. These funds should be seen as seed money, enabling initiation of the work and leading to further funding via e.g. public funding sources. Thus, the content of the EOI may be seen and described as a phase of a larger and stronger research project.

Topics for Expressions of Interest for the 5th call

The 5th call especially wishes to attract research proposals within the following three areas:


Infant Nutrition & Healthy Development

Breastfeeding is highly recommended and superior to feeding infant formula. However, when breast milk is not available the infant formula's ability to mimic human milk is of utmost importance. Humanization of infant formulas is primarily obtained through the use of bovine milk fractions developed to target the composition and functionality of breast milk. Young children, toddlers and especially infants get their nutrition from few food sources, and in the case of infants where breast milk is not available they rely solely on infant formula. The quality of the food consumed during infancy is therefore one of the most important factors for healthy development in both infancy and in later stages of life through the impact of early metabolic programming.

Expressions of interest, which will lead to an elevated understanding of interactions between bovine milk components and healthy growth and development are invited. Some current topics of interest are:

  • Identification of biomarkers and exploration of mechanisms of early life metabolic programming in in vivo models
  • Effect of different processing conditions on the effect of infant nutrition and development
  • Specific milk components’ effect on children’s growth and early development
  • Glycosylated proteins potential effects as allergens, prebiotics and growth promotors


Kids & Adolescents

Healthy growth and development is mainly dependent on a sufficient and balanced intake of nutrients. In the context of a balanced diet, high intake of dairy is often associated with increased lean body mass. AFH wishes to expand knowledge on the connection between hormone status and anabolic stimulation by intake of milk/milk ingredients in order to optimize this anabolic response.

Furthermore, dairy is known to be an excellent source of dietary calcium of high bioavailability, which is crucial in bone growth and maintenance. The physiological response to calcium intake is regulated by several other food-related factors including vitamin D and K, protein and components modifying solubility of calcium either through chelation or by lowering colonic pH.

However, dairy as the most pronounced vehicle of dietary calcium is increasingly challenged by consumers deselecting drinking milk, dairy or even animal foods in totality. Such consumer groups may offer a unique opportunity to elucidate the pros and cons of dairy in healthy growth regulation of lean body mass.

Expressions of interests which will lead to an elevated understanding of interactions between bovine milk components and healthy growth and development are invited. Some current topics of interest are:

  • How intake of dairy/dairy ingredients regulate the IGF-I/GH axis, estrogen and other hormones, and how this can affect linear growth, lean body mass and cognitive performance/plasticity in different age stages
  • Assessment of the importance of cross-talk between skeletal muscle and adipose tissue in diet-stimulated growth of lean body mass, as well as the effect of exercise hereupon
  • Bone growth’s dependency on bioavailability of milk calcium and how it is modified by other food components such as lactose or plant fibers lowering intestinal pH through fermentation
  • How the diet-induced hormonal milieu besides growth stimulation of lean body mass also stimulates calcium incorporation through bone growth


Digestive health

Good digestive health describes a system that include appropriate nutrient absorption through a well-functioning intestinal barrier, intestinal motility, immune function and a balanced microbiota. Contrary, an unhealthy gut contributes to a wide range of health challenges, which however can be counteracted when digestion is optimized with the aid of dietary solutions. Nutrition to support digestive health encompass food/food components that stimulate or support a well-functioning GI system in the healthy state, but also components able to improve GI status in dysfunctional gut conditions or in GI diseases. We want to understand the interplay and plasticity between gut microbiota, intestinal barrier, and local gut immune system and how this may be influenced by dairy and dairy components. The vision is that such understanding subsequently can support development of personalized dairy-based solutions for important vulnerable population groups.

Expressions of interests leading to new insight and better understanding of how dairy and/or dairy components enhance digestive health are invited. Examples of interest are:

  • How dairy and whey processing, e.g. ‘gentle processing technologies’, fermentation, hydrolysis, affect gastrointestinal health parameters
  • Influence of protein glycosylation on protein digestion and digestive health end-points
  • The effect of bovine milk sugars. e.g. lactose, on the microbiota, stool pH and digestive health end-points

The specific examples of interest given within the above three main research areas mainly serve as inspiration, why alternative great ideas for new research within the three areas also are welcomed.