Functionally and physiologically active peptides are produced from several food proteins during gastrointestinal digestion and fermentation of food materials with lactic acid bacteria. Once bioactive peptides (BPs) are liberated, they exhibit a wide variety of physiological functions in the human body such as gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. These functionalities of the peptides in human health and physiology include antihypertensive, antimicrobial, antioxidative, antithrombotic, opioid, anti-appetizing, immunomodulatory and mineral-binding activities. Most of the bioactivities of milk proteins are latent, being absent or incomplete in the original native protein, but full activities are manifested upon proteolytic digestion to release and activate encrypted bioactive peptides from the original protein. Bioactive peptides have been identified within the amino acid sequences of native milk proteins. Due to their physiological and physico-chemical versatility, milk peptides are regarded as greatly important components for health promoting foods or pharmaceutical applications. Milk and colostrum of bovine and other dairy species are considered as the most important source of natural bioactive components. Over the past a few decades, major advances and developments have been achieved on the science, technology and commercial applications of bioactive components which are present naturally in the milk. Although the majority of published works are associated with the search of bioactive peptides in bovine milk samples, some of them are involved in the investigation of ovine or caprine milk. The advent of functional foods has been facilitated by increasing scientific knowledge about the metabolic and genomic effects of diet and specific dietary components on human health.
Keywords: bioactive peptide; functional foods; human health; milk; proteins.