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Heat treatment of milk: A rapid review of the impacts on postprandial protein and lipid kinetics in human adults

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posted on 2023-05-03, 19:55 authored by Mona Fatih, Matthew BarnettMatthew Barnett, Nicola Gillies, Amber MilanAmber Milan
Background: Most milk consumed by humans undergoes heat treatment to ensure microbiological safety and extend shelf life. Although heat treatment impacts the structure and physiochemical properties of milk, effects on nutrient absorption in humans are unclear. Therefore, a rapid review was performed to identify studies conducted on healthy human adult subjects that have assessed the impacts of heat treatment of milk on protein and fat digestion and metabolism in the postprandial period (up to 24 h). Methods: Relevant databases (Medline, EMBASE, Cochrane, Scopus) were systematically screened for intervention studies on healthy adult men and women that assessed the impact of consuming heat-treated milk on the postprandial kinetics or appearance in peripheral circulation or urine of ingested proteins and/or lipids. The risk-of-bias assessment tool 2 was used for quality assessment. Results: Of 511 unique database records, 4 studies were included encompassing 6 study treatments (n = 57 participants, 20–68 years). Three studies evaluated pasteurization, two evaluated ultra-high temperature (UHT) treatment, and one evaluated oven-heated milk. Protein and lipid appearances in peripheral blood were reported in two sets of two studies. None of the studies used the same heat treatments and outcome measures, limiting generalization of effects. Protein appearance (ng/mL or area under the curve) (as plasma amino acids - lysine) was reduced when milk was oven-heated for 5 h in one study (n = 7 participants), while the other study reported a reduced retention of dietary N with UHT milk (n = 25 participants). Overall plasma triacylglycerol responses were unaffected by milk heat treatments reported, but plasma fatty acid composition differed. The studies observed higher plasma myristic and palmitic acid abundance with successive heat treatment at 2 h (n = 11 participants; pasteurized) and 4 h (n = 14 participants; UHT) after ingestion; other differences were inconsistent. All studies had moderate-high risk of bias, which should be taken into consideration when interpreting findings. Discussion: This review identified few studies reporting the effects of milk heat treatment on postprandial nutrient responses in adults. Although the findings suggest that milk heat treatment likely affects postprandial protein and lipid dynamics, generalization of the findings is limited as treatments, outcomes, and methods differed across studies. Because of the study variability, and the acute post-prandial nature of the studies, it is also difficult to draw conclusions regarding potential long-term health outcomes. However, the possibility that altered digestive kinetics may influence postprandial protein retention and anabolic use of dietary N suggests heat treatment of milk may impact outcomes such as long-term maintenance of muscle mass.


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© 2021 Fatih, Barnett, Gillies and Milan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


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Frontiers Media

Journal title

Frontiers in Nutrition




Fatih, M., Barnett, M. P. G., Gillies, N. A., & Milan, A. M. (2021). Heat treatment of milk: A rapid review of the impacts on postprandial protein and lipid kinetics in human adults. Frontiers in Nutrition, 8, 643350. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.643350

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