Brain juice: Kirin rolls out new memory support functional foods and supplement with Japan health claims

By Guan Yu Lim

- Last updated on GMT

The products will be progressively rolled out in April in Japan ©Kirin
The products will be progressively rolled out in April in Japan ©Kirin

Related tags Kirin Megmilk snow Japan Brain health

Kirin Group is set to roll out four functional foods and dietary supplements containing its proprietary ingredient beta-lactolin (β-lactolin) to support memory health.

Kirin claims it is the first company in the world to discover β-lactolin, a whey protein-derived peptide to support cognitive health, and incorporate it into functional foods and supplements.

Among the products is a functional yoghurt (Kiokukea Yoghurt β-Lactolin) developed in collaboration with Japanese dairy company, Megmilk Snow Brand.

This is in addition to three other products, including a supplement its subsidiary Kyowa Hakko (Kyowa Hakko Bio β-lactolin),a milk beverage (Kirin β-lactolin) by Kirin Beverage, as well as a milk drink (Koiwai β-lactolin milk) from Koiwai Dairy Products Company, which is owned by Kirin Beverage).

The products will be rolled out in April, starting with the supplement, while Megmilk’s yoghurt is scheduled to launch in June.

All four products are recognised as a food with functional claim (FFC).

Brain health

Kirin first discovered β-lactolin in 2014 through research between Kyowa Kirin and Koiwa Dairy Products, where daily consumption of dairy products was found to be beneficial for retaining memory capacity and cognitive functions.

A study published earlier this year by Kirin and researchers in Japan showed that a six weeks supplementation of β-lactolin (1.6mg) improved regional cerebral blood flow in the brain, which could improve cognitive function such as attention, executive function, and memory retrieval.

β-lactolin has the ability to stimulate neurons as it moves throughout the brain, increasing the amount of dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter.

The increase in dopamine stimulates neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, the brain regions responsible for memory. Through this mechanism, β-lactolin helps people retain their capacity for memory.

The randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial was conducted on older adults living in Japan, aged 50 to 75 years, with subjective cognitive decline, such as forgetfulness and carelessness, but were otherwise healthy.

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine​.

β-lactolin is found abundantly in fermented dairy products such as whey-enzymatic digestions, camembert cheese, and blue cheese.

Kirin applies a fermentation technology to extract β-lactolin into an ingredient for various applications.

Four SKUs

All four new products claim to support memory health, which tends to decline with age, and contains 1.6mg of β-lactolin per serving.

The supplement (Kyowa Hakko Bio β-lactolin) is targeted for seniors 60 years old and above who are healthy but have started to experience forgetfulness, reduced ability to recall information, and reduced attention span.

Two of the dairy beverages, Kirin β-lactolin (100m yoghurt-flavoured drink) and Koiwai β-lactolin milk (200mL milk) are targeted seniors between 50s to 70s who are concerned with their declining memory.

In addition, the Koiwai dairy products is targeted for females in their 50s and 60s: “People with a desire to maintain good health and enjoy a better daily life, who have a high level of interest in and commitment to food and drink, have the ability to disseminate information, and have some money to spare​,” explained Kozue Takayoshi, assistant manager of Kirin Holdings’ corporate communication.

The yoghurt collaboration (90g yoghurt) will Megmilk is targeted for middle to older people concerned with memory loss.

According to Takayoshi, Megmilk Snow Brand has endorsed Kirin's research and development in the field of brain health, such as the cognitive properties of β-lactolin, and has started joint efforts to develop products for Japan’s rapidly-ageing society.

In Japan, one in five elderly people is expected to suffer from dementia by 2025.

Since most of a healthy life expectancy is associated with brain activity, the launch of its β-lactolin-containing products is part of Kirin’s plans to develop products to promote brain health and improve quality of life.

The new products are suitable for middle to older aged consumers, although people who are lactose intolerant are advised to avoid taking since the drinks and yoghurt are dairy-based.

While β-lactolin as a milk protein is enzymatically processed, and basically do not contain lactose or milk fat, the finished products are not standardised as a 100% free from lactose and milk fat. Because the product contains ingredients that contain milk, people with milk allergies should avoid drinking it​,” Takayoshi said.


Source: Journal of Clinical Medicine

“Effects of β-Lactolin on Regional Cerebral Blood Flow within the Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex during Working Memory Task in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial”

Authors: Yasuhisa Ano, et al​.

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