Sheep milk is a possible dairy alternative of benefit to those who need to increase total protein intake or for individuals with heightened protein requirements.

Read this only if you need to increase protein intake and understand science.

Because the sheep milk industry is smaller in global terms than the cow dairy industry. It hasn’t been funded as well and hence the amount of scientific research carried out  is less. So whenever I come across new studies or studies I haven’t read before I put them on our website and share them with you our lovely subscribers.  At lot of you when you read this study will tell me, you know this already, but as food producers we have to be very careful about the claims we make on or about our products. So I am always interested in robust science.

The full report is: Milan AM, Samuelsson LM, Shrestha A, Sharma P, Day L and Cameron-Smith D (2020) Circulating Branched Chain Amino Acid Concentrations Are Higher in Dairy-Avoiding Females Following an Equal Volume of Sheep Milk Relative to Cow Milk: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Front. Nutr. 7:553674. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.553674

Here you can read the discussion and conclusion which is:

Sheep milk is a rich source of protein, and relative to cows milk, provides a greater quantity of branch chain amino acids with a corresponding elevation of the postprandial circulating branch chain amino acid response. Sheep milk is therefore a possible dairy alternative of benefit to those who need to increase total protein intake or for individuals with heightened protein requirements.

In other words its looking good, but more research is needed.

This is the discussion from the paper below , the entire study can be read here



Milk is an important source of dietary protein and minerals, including calcium. However, avoidance of bovine dairy is increasingly frequent, requiring the identification of suitable dietary alternatives to support health. The composition of milk, both with respect to nutrient composition and protein structure, can influence digestive processes and appearance of nutrients in circulation. Despite well-known compositional differences between ruminant milks, including sheep and cow milks, few studies have comparatively described the postprandial impacts on nutrient appearance. The current study addressed this question by comparing the circulating amino acid postprandial responses, following ingestion of equal volumes of SM or CM. The composition of the milks differed, with SM containing a greater quantity of BCAAs and all other AA due to its higher protein content. In response to a single ingestion, there was a greater abundance of BCAAs, methionine, lysine, and proline in circulation. Yet, despite greater compositional abundance of all AAs, no greater circulating abundance of any of the other AAs were observed relative to CM, and in the case of alanine, plasma concentrations were higher after CM.

In the current study, female volunteers consumed a single bolus of 650 mL of either SM or CM. Plasma BCAA concentrations were elevated to a greater degree following SM consumption than CM, notably at peak concentrations (60 min). Peak BCAA concentrations, in particular leucine, have been hypothesized to be important in triggering muscle protein synthesis (MPS) (3638). From 60 to 240 min, there continued to be higher plasma leucine concentrations following SM ingestion. In addition to the greater abundance of these BCAAs in SM from an equal volume, the higher concentrations in circulation may reflect differences in protein structure. For caseins, sheep milk AA sequences include notable differences to cow milk sequences across αs1-, αs2-, β, and κ-caseins, which directly influence their enzymatic products and functionality including micelle formation and mineral binding (18). These factors, in addition to macronutrient interactions (including fat globule properties) and macrostructural effects (20), are known to influence digestion rates and AA appearance (20, 39). Irrespective of the underlying reason for higher circulating BCAAs following ingestion with SM, portion-for-portion SM may help to supply sufficient AA acutely and longer term. Indeed, in a rodent model, a similar elevation of leucine, along with lysine and methionine were seen in circulation following long term feeding with SM relative to CM (26). For some populations, such as the elderly, greater acute availability of AAs during peak periods, and also sustained concentrations in circulation following ingestion, may be beneficial for stimulation of MPS (40, 41). Pulse feeding of protein has been shown to improve protein retention in elderly women (40), while the delayed MPS observed following exercise in the elderly (41) may benefit from sustained availability of AAs. Future research should aim to identify whether clinical outcomes relating to elevated AA availability, including measures of MPS, are affected differently with SM ingestion.

Other essential (lysine and methionine) and non-essential (proline) AA concentrations were also elevated more following SM ingestion than CM. While this reflects the greater abundance of these AAs and total protein in SM, the implications of greater postprandial concentrations are less clear than for BCAAs. Indeed, greater intake of specific AAs have been shown to enrich circulating concentrations of these AAs during periods of growth (42). As with BCAAs, adequate postprandial abundance of EAAs during activation of MPS are required for its optimal stimulation (43), but under conditions of adequate abundance, greater postprandial elevations of specific AAs have not been clearly linked to greater MPS stimulation (43). Similarly, for long term health, greater bioavailability of EAAs such as lysine or methionine may be most relevant where these AAs are limited in the diet. Both lysine and methionine are found in short supply in cereal based foods (44), and can be limiting AAs in the diets of populations consuming largely cereal based diets, such as vegetarians (44). When limited in the diet, additional intake of lysine has been shown to have beneficial impacts on anxiety and stress (45), diarrhea (46), or even muscle strength and function in elderly women (47). Hence, in cases of insufficient dietary intake, as in those consuming greater proportions of cereals such as young children (4851), SM could be an attractive nutrient dense option.

Although most AAs were more abundant in SM than CM, most did not appear in greater quantities in circulation. In the case of alanine, plasma concentrations were actually slightly lower following SM than CM, despite SM providing more alanine. Many ingested AAs are taken up by first pass metabolism by the splanchnic tissues (52), which could explain a lack of difference in circulation for AAs such as glutamine (53) or tryptophan (54), among other AAs (55, 56). Thus, any possible benefit of greater acute intake of these AAs abundant in SM may only be detectable within the gut or liver (27) and may not be apparent in peripheral circulation. Peripheral circulating AAs, in addition to influence from endogenous AA pools (52), are also impacted by gastrointestinal transit (57, 58), or postprandial metabolic responses to meals (5860). Importantly, the current study did not use the gold standard techniques of isotopically labeled foods to precisely track the fate of all ingested AAs, which limits the current interpretation of the AA appearance differences. Differences in protein peptide structure (18) or physiochemical properties (16, 61) between SM and CM have the potential to influence micelle (62) or curd formation (63), gastric emptying (22), incretin responses (64, 65), or AA accretion independent of total AA content (23). While gastric emptying may impact AA appearance (57, 58), physiochemical properties like curd formation have not been conclusively shown to influence gastrointestinal transit (6668). Further, comparative descriptions of such properties between SM and CM are limited (63). As such, more detailed descriptions of the physiochemical differences between SM and CM, and their respective influence on digestion dynamics, would be required to attribute circulating AA differences to physical influences of protein structures. Although insulin responses were similar between SM and CM, glucose concentrations decreased slightly with CM but not SM. While this could suggest differences in incretin response (69), gastrointestinal motility or appetite hormone responses were not addressed in this study. Hence, further work is required to understand the specific influence of protein and peptide differences on aspects of digestion and postprandial metabolism impacting circulating AAs.

Comparative assessment of meals with inherently different composition is challenging, as differences may exist not only in the primary nutrient of interest, but across other macro and micronutrients, including total energy. In the current study, equal volumes of milk were selected to provide a comparison of sheep and cow milk on a “portion-for-portion” basis, resulting in greater total protein and specific AA content in SM relative to CM. Although this compositional difference contributes to the greater postprandial rises in AAs observed following SM, it is important to note that fat interactions (70, 71), total energy (72, 73), and volume (74) also impact digestion and possibly nutrient appearance (58, 75) in circulation. Artificially matched formulations to provide equivalent protein and/or AA content would similarly alter or eliminate other compositional differences inherent between milks, which contribute to the overall postprandial response. However, it should also be noted that the SM used in this study had slightly lower total solids content than what has previously been reported for liquid milk from New Zealand herds (27). The lower total solids concentration (~80% of liquid sheep milk) was due to the reconstitution protocol used, which was according to the manufacturers' instructions. While the use of processed milk may have also impacted compositional features of the milks, including peptide structures, physiochemical properties, and digestion kinetics (20), there exist few comparisons of fresh pasteurized and powdered milk to inform how this processing technique (39) (particularly in the context of sheep milk) may have impacted the current findings. Thus, this study provides insight into the post-meal AA response to an equal serve of powdered SM relative to CM, but may not be predictive of differences in the digestion and postprandial AA appearance of sheep milk proteins if provided in quantities matched to cow milk, other regional variations in proportions, or differing processing techniques.

Although the current findings are a useful description of typical AA responses to differing ruminant species milks, it is important to note that the postprandial dynamics were described only in females, and further in dairy avoiders who generally restrict dairy consumption. These subjects, although self-described as avoiders, were largely lactose intolerant, yet many did consume some milk, albeit infrequently and in small amounts. Partial rather than complete avoidance has similarly been reported as more likely in Australian symptomatic dairy avoiders (1). This restriction of dairy, paired with intolerance, may have impacts on gastrointestinal transit and overall tolerance of milk, as habitual dairy consumption in lactose intolerance has been known to reduce malabsorption and intolerance (76, 77), including symptoms of flatulence (77). However, AA appearance in circulation has been shown to be unimpaired in subjects with lactose intolerance (78), although other forms of dairy intolerance may impact AA (78) and other nutrient appearance (79). While variation in dairy intake in the habitual diet may be expected to impact fasting amino acid profiles, we have previously demonstrated that changes to habitual dairy intake, such as restriction or increased intake over 1 month does not alter BCAA profiles, or indeed any other AA, in circulation (80). Yet, subjects who restricted dairy in the study by Prodhan et al. (80) still consumed 1.2 servings of dairy per day; as the current study did not record habitual dairy intake by means of a food frequency questionnaire or dietary records, it is unknown whether these participants had habitual intakes even below those previously reported. Indeed, others have reported that habitual protein intake, such as a high protein diet over 1 week, influences the postprandial AA response including N retention, albeit this effect has been shown to be more pronounced with soy intake rather than dairy (81). Hence, while the population studied here may have had alterations in habitual dairy intake or symptoms experienced with dairy relative to habitual consumers, it is less likely that this influenced postprandial AA appearance.

In summary, ingestion of SM and CM results in different responses when compared “portion-for-portion.” SM results in a greater circulating increase in the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine, as well as the EAAs lysine and methionine and the non-essential AA proline compared to CM. These differences are not just a result of the compositional differences between SM and CM, but also reflect the inherent differences in protein digestion and amino acid absorption. The greater uptake of BCAAs may make SM an attractive, nutrient-dense alternative for consumers seeking bovine milk alternatives, including those who habitually avoid milk or have higher muscle maintenance requirements such as young children, the elderly and athletes. In addition, the greater uptake of lysine and methionine with SM may be beneficial for consumers of a vegetarian diet where these amino acids can be limiting.



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