Arla Foods Ingredients has pledged its support to a new research program designed to tackle malnutrition among children in the developing world.

The study, which will take place in Malawi and will be run by US food aid organisation Project Peanut Butter, will investigate the potential benefits of using whey permeate and whey protein in ready-to-use food supplements for the treatment of children with moderately acute malnutrition.

Arla Foods Ingredients is a co-founder of the initiative alongside the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the US Dairy Export Council, and will donate the whey permeate and protein required to carry out the study.

Project Peanut Butter is aiming to help save the lives of two million children by 2015 by preventing malnutrition. The charity says malnutrition kills more than twice the number of children every year than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

Charlotte Sørensen, Senior Project Manager at Arla Foods Ingredients, said: “Food aid is often focused only on preventing starvation, but this approach can still leave children at risk from malnutrition and poor health. The aim of the Malawi study is to investigate whether whey permeate, when used in conjunction with whey protein, can help children recover from the effects of malnutrition and grow up healthy.”

Whey permeate, a by-product of cheesemaking, is very high in lactose, which research suggests is good for immature digestive systems, promoting the absorption of minerals and stimulating the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, leading to a stronger digestive and immune system.

Charlotte Sørensen continued: “Pure lactose is considered an expensive component in food aid products, but permeate is both a cheaper alternative and a source of important milk minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and chloride – all important contributors to healthy growth and development. Used in conjunction with whey protein, which is rich in the full range of amino acids required for healthy growth and development, we hope that whey permeate can offer a beneficial solution in the fight to eliminate malnutrition.”