While milk's nutritional values are well known, little research has been conducted into the detailed structure of milk and how its fats interact with the digestive system until now.

"By unlocking the detailed structure of milk, we have the potential to create milk loaded with fat soluble vitamins and brain building molecules for premature babies, or a drink that slows digestion so people feel fuller for longer," said Stefan Salentinig, a professor at Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) in Australia.

"We could even harness milk's ability as a 'carrier' to develop new forms of drug delivery," Salentinig added. The researchers looked at the nanostructure of milk to find out how its components interact with the human digestive system and discovered milk has a highly geometrically ordered structure when being digested.

By chemically recreating the digestive system in a glass beaker and adding cows' milk, the team found that milk has a unique structure an emulsion of fats, nutrients and water forms a structure which enhances digestion.

"We found that when the body starts the digestion process, an enzyme called lipase breaks down the fat molecules to form a highly geometrically ordered structure," Salentinig explained.

These small and highly organized components enable fats, vitamins and lipid-soluble drugs to cross cell membranes and get into the circulatory system, he noted. The study appeared in the journal ACS Nano.


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