A glass of milk could not only protect our bones, but also help fight food intoxication, suggest Dutch scientists. The news ushers in the potential for a new wave of functional dairy products in the future.
Research from the Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences (WCFS), carried out at NIZO food research in The Netherlands, had already found that rats on a calcium-rich diet had a better resistance to infection with salmonella and E.coli. In this latest study, scientists were challenged to prove that the positive effects found in rat experiments would be mirrored in humans.
They set up a so-called double-blind placebo-controlled intervention study on healthy males. One half of the group received normal dairy products with a naturally high calcium level and the other special (placebo) dairy products with low calcium levels.
The volunteers were allowed to maintain their normal eating habits but consumption of other dairy products was not allowed. After an adaptation period of a week, both groups were infected with a weakened strain of E.coli - the common cause of 'traveller's' diarrhoea.
According to the scientists, the results were convincing. Men who had eaten the calcium-rich dairy product diet suffered significantly less compared to the group on the special low-calcium dairy products diet.
The researchers suggest that the positive effect of calcium is most likely due to the boosting power that calcium has on protective intestinal flora, in particular the lactobacilli.
In the past few years dairy has emerged as one of the most dynamic sectors of the functional food market in Europe, accounting for around 30 per cent of all functional products. Another key trend today is the consumer demand for all that is natural. This latest study holds the potential for products that slip into both of the above - functional dairy products with an inherent positive property - calcium - that boost the system to help fight food toxins.