Gastrointestinal Protein Hydrolysis Kinetics: Opportunities for Further Infant Formula Improvement

Evan Abrahamse*, Gabriël G.M. Thomassen, Ingrid B. Renes, Peter A. Wierenga, Kasper A. Hettinga

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The postprandial plasma essential amino acid (AA) peak concentrations of infant formula (IF) are higher than those of human milk (HM) in infants. In addition, several HM proteins have been recovered intact in infant stool and appeared digestion resistant in vitro. We, therefore, hypothesized that gastrointestinal protein hydrolysis of IF is faster than HM and leads to accelerated absorbable digestion product release. HM and IF protein hydrolysis kinetics were compared in a two-step semi-dynamic in vitro infant digestion model, and the time course of degree of protein hydrolysis (DH), loss of intact protein, and release of free AA and peptides was evaluated. Gastric DH increase was similar for IF and HM, but the rate of intestinal DH increase was 1.6 times higher for IF than HM. Intact protein loss in IF was higher than HM from 120 min gastric phase until 60 min intestinal phase. Intestinal phase total digestion product (free AA + peptides <5 kDa) concentrations increased ~2.5 times faster in IF than HM. IF gastrointestinal protein hydrolysis and absorbable product release are faster than HM, possibly due to the presence of digestion-resistant proteins in HM. This might present an opportunity to further improve IF bringing it closer to HM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1512
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2022


  • caseins
  • cows’ milk
  • human breast milk
  • whey protein


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