'Sleepy milk' tests on restless

22:20, Feb 13 2012

Dunsandel's Chinese-controlled Synlait Milk is aiming to launch a new "sleepy milk" early next year that it hopes will lull insomniacs and those with sleeping problems into the land of nod.

The Canterbury milk powder maker in conjunction with a sleep research clinic will be conducting a clinical trial using insomniacs to test how well the "night milk" works.

The milk is collected from cows at night when they produce more of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, during darkness.

Synlait's marketing product development manager Dr Tony McKenna said the "sleepy milk" would have about 10 times the melatonin of standard milk.

Melatonin is used in synthetic drug form to treat insomniacs. McKenna said the company wanted to produce the milk through "a natural delivery system" and had issues with adding a synthetic drug to milk.

Skeptics Society spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said she had seen a market research report saying that these sorts of products had good business prospects because of the pre-occupation of "the worried well" with their health.

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While melatonin was recognised as having an effect in regulating sleep and dealing with jet lag and was recommended in supplement form to treat insomnia, the evidence supporting its effectiveness was still fairly sketchy.

Hyde said a key question was how much melatonin remained in the milk powder after processing and was it enough to help humans get to sleep.

"Companies have not been very forthcoming on this point," she said.

Synlait Milk, 51 per cent owned since early 2010 by Bright Dairy, a Chinese dairy company, has completed some production of the milk powder.

If the clinical trial proves positive it will be looking for a large supply of milk collected at night by local farmers.

The Press