Milk fat globule membrane in infant nutrition: a dairy industry perspective

J Dairy Res. 2021 Feb;88(1):105-116. doi: 10.1017/S0022029921000224. Epub 2021 Mar 16.


This review provides an overview of the composition, structure, and biological activities of milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) compounds with focus on the future application of this compound as a food ingredient. MFGM is a particular component of mammalian milks and is comprised of a tri-layer of polar lipids, glycolipids and proteins. In recent years, MFGM has been extensively studied for the purpose of enhancing the efficacy of infant nutrition formula. For example, infant formulas supplemented with bovine MFGM have shown promising results with regard to neurodevelopment and defense against infections. Components of MFGM have been shown to present several health benefits as the proteins of the membrane have shown antiviral activity and a reduction in the incidence of diarrhea. Moreover, the presence of sphingomyelin, a phospholipid, implies beneficial effects on human health such as enhanced neuronal development in infants and the protection of neonates from bacterial infections. The development of a lipid that is similar to human milk fat would represent a significant advance for the infant formula industry and would offer high technology formulas for those infants that depend on infant formula. The complexity of the structure of MFGM and its nutritional and technological properties is critically examined in this review with a focus on issues relevant to the dairy industry.

Keywords: Fat globules; human milk; immunity; polar lipids; sphingomyelin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Dairying*
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Food Technology
  • Glycolipids / analysis
  • Glycolipids / chemistry*
  • Glycoproteins / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula / chemistry
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Lipid Droplets / chemistry*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Milk Proteins / analysis
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Phospholipids / analysis


  • Fatty Acids
  • Glycolipids
  • Glycoproteins
  • Lipids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Phospholipids
  • milk fat globule