In recent days some media have been reporting on a new product called ‘sleeptime milk’. So far it is only being marketed in Taiwan where, according to New Zealand marketer New Image Group, they have been “stunned” by consumer interest.
New Image Group is a publicly listed New Zealand company that markets health and wellness products internationally, particularly in Asia. New Image Group direct-sells products to consumers via agents, and does not use retail stores. Its major product to date has been cows’ milk colostrum.
According to New Image Group, they are thinking of expanding into Malaysia, and further down the track there is a prospect it will be marketed in New Zealand. They have already won an award from the Cawthron Institute for export innovation. So what is this ‘sleeptime milk’, sometimes also more simply called ‘sleep milk’?
The press release from New Image Group says that it comes from a particular type of cow. It is sold as a powder to which water is added. The key message is that it helps induce sleep in adults that are suffering from insomnia. The press release is available from various sources including the New Image Asia website (http://www.newimageasia.com/en/about-new-image/news/122-taiwanese-launch-of-sleeptime)
New Image Group says that it “has been shown in clinical trials to provide a statistically significant improvement in quality of sleep and most notably an increasing time spent in the important rapid eye movement (REM) sleep phase”. They say that the proprietary manufacturing process includes additives to stabilise the milk, thereby “extending the life of certain milk fractions in the body’s circulation”.
The press release is not specific as to what is actually different about these cows. However, it does say that the lactose and most of the fat is removed during processing. It also states that the intellectual property for this project was developed by another company, Somnaceutics, with whom they are partnering.
Searching on the web for the relevant patents held by Somnaceutics provides the technical details submitted for patent registration. They are registered widely across the world, including Europe and the United States. The American site is http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20100130406.
It is laid out in the patent that the special cows are what are known as A1 cows, i.e. they have double copies of the A1 variant of the beta-casein gene. Hence all of their beta-casein is A1 beta-casein. Ascorbic acid is added to the milk (with lactose and fat removed) and the product is heat treated. The ascorbic acid and the heat treatment are to minimise the breakdown of BCM7 (beta-casomorphin-7) which is released from A1 beta-casein.
The patent is very clear that this is about maximizing the effect of BCM7.
Readers of my book ‘Devil in the Milk’ will know that BCM7 is the devil that I write about. Readers will also know that BCM7 is an opioid, hence the name ‘casomorphin’, whose effects include reduced respiration rates in young animals. In my book, drawing on more than 100 scientific papers, I lay out the evidence linking BCM7 to Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, symptoms of autism, and various other auto immune conditions.
According to the New Image Group they have both clinical and consumer evidence that their product works. I have not been able to find the published data of the clinical trials, but it would not be at all surprising if it did indeed work. This is particularly so for people who are stressed, or who for other reasons might have a ‘leaky gut’ that allows peptides to pass through to the blood and from there to the brain.
According to the press release, consumers particularly like the product because of its natural base. There is no mention in the press release that the key component is an opioid, and that it has been linked in the scientific literature to various health conditions. However, the American version of the patent (and perhaps other versions) does say: “this invention should be used with care by the elderly or by diabetics or by persons undergoing dialysis. Preferably the soporific product is sold with a recommended dose statement and with a warning against carrying out risky actions such as driving or operating machinery for a time after consuming the product”. It is not clear from the press release whether this message is carried on the packaging.
I have been aware of this patent for many months, but until now had not followed up the details. This was because, although there is no health-related legal constraint, I did not see how anyone could make a marketable food product based on BCM7. In contrast, I have long been an enthusiast for A2 milk, which does not contain the A1 beta-casein which releases BCM7. In fact the absence of A1 beta-casein is what makes A2 milk distinctive. Originally all milk was A2 until a mutation occurred that has affected many European cows.
I now find it very interesting that a company is marketing a product that maximizes A1 beta-casein, and then goes further by treating it so as to increase the bio-active effect of BCM7. According to the press release, “production in New Zealand is now being ramped up and Somnaceutics is adding more cows to the special dairy herds that produce milk containing a high level of sleep enhancing peptides”.
I am going to watch with great interest how the ‘sleeptime milk’ journey develops. In particular, if the opioid BCM7 is really getting through into the brain and putting people to sleep, what else might it be doing for long term auto-immune conditions?