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Turkish Mothers Show Fermented Food Products Protect against Mastitis

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #98 | Date: 09 2020

The idea of using probiotics in place of antibiotics was born in the dairy industry. In recent years, however, as multidrug resistance has become more commonplace among strains of bacteria that cause mastitis in breastfeeding women, probiotics have become known as a potential treatment alternative. Evidence that they work has been gathering. But until recently no study had evaluated one easily available source of probiotics—fermented foods such as kefir—alongside mastitis’ common risk factors. Based on interviews about fermented food-product consumption with more than 600 Turkish women, a new study finds that both the frequency with which mothers consume these foodstuffs, and the diversity of the products that they consume, are associated with

Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Early Menopause

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #98 | Date: 09 2020

Recommendations from both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life were developed to optimize infant health. But new research suggests the mother’s health may benefit from following these breastfeeding guidelines as well.

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California’s Dairy Industry Has Grown Kinder to the Environment

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #98 | Date: 09 2020

Milk is big business in California. It’s the agricultural product that brings in more farm revenue than any other in the state. It employs about 190,000 workers, and involves 1.78 million cows. Indeed, dairy has been important to California’s economy for decades, and over time innovations in animal husbandry, feeding and in growing crops that dairy cows eat have led to substantial changes in greenhouse gas emissions. Recently, Ermias Kebreab and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis, calculated exactly how much these emissions have changed in the 50 years from 1964 to 2014. Although the total emissions from the state’s dairy industry increased over that period, the state also produced

IMGC 17th International Symposium on Milk Science and Health Will Be Held Virtually October 13-16, 2020

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #98 | Date: 09 2020

The International Milk Genomics Consortium (IMGC) is the world’s signature organization that for 20 years has been linking scientific research on lactation and milk to the applications of that research to the health of babies to adults. IMGC will hold its 17th annual conference from October–13-16, 2020 in a lively, engaging, and interactive virtual format. The conference will bring together a multidisciplinary field of experts from all over the world to discuss their scientific research on milk and human health.

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Kefir Milk Influences Behavior in Mice

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #97 | Date: 07 2020

The nearly 100 trillion bacteria that live in our gastrointestinal tract aren’t just involved in food digestion; they influence the health and function of the entire body. Mounting evidence suggests gut microbes may even influence the brain, including behavior. This connection between the gut and the brain is called the gut-brain axis and is a complex network of signaling pathways linking the central nervous system with the enteric (or gastrointestinal) nervous system.

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Developing a Better Cattle Reference Genome

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #97 | Date: 07 2020

Cows are one of our major domestic animals, with about 1.4 billion domesticated cattle being raised for meat and dairy all over the world. Humans have long drawn from the existing genetic variation in cattle populations to select a variety of breeds with useful traits. The sequencing of the cattle genome enhanced the selection of cattle by allowing the use of genomic tools to select traits.

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How Breastfeeding Influences Viral Colonization of the Infant Gut

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #97 | Date: 07 2020

The human gut microbiome is known to contain a large number of both bacteria and viruses. Viruses are absent from the infant gut at birth but colonize shortly after and can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal disorder. By one month of age, infants can have about a billion viruses per gram of stool, which is similar to the number of viruses present in older children and adults. But there is still a lot researchers don’t know about how viruses colonize the early infant gut to form the virus microbiome, known as the virome.

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SARS-CoV-2 Research Highlights the Importance of Human Milk Immunobiology

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #97 | Date: 07 2020

Over the last six months, scientists all over the world have put their planned research programs on hold and pivoted to study SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). Milk researchers are no exception. Milk from mothers that have COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, could be a source of antibodies directed against the virus. Like convalescent plasma (i.e., blood from recovered COVID-19 patients), these maternally-derived antibodies offer potential as a therapeutic to help severely ill patients. But human milk could also contain RNA from SARS-CoV-2, and possibly even infectious viral material. Telling infected mothers to stop nursing “just in case” is not an option, particularly in populations without access to

A Gene that Helps Humans Consume Fermented Dairy

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #96 | Date: 05 2020

Humans have many unique attributes, as does the family of species within which humans evolved—the hominids. About 15 years ago, geneticists added to the list of hominid-unique attributes by noting that species within this family have a gene called HCA3 that other mammals lack. Now a group of researchers from Leipzig, Germany has figured out what this gene does and why it was preserved by natural selection. Their evidence suggests that HCA3 blessed the hominids with the ability to eat many bacteria-riddled foods without getting sick. These include some foods that played important roles in the story of human evolution, such as fermented milk products.

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Malaria Antigens Occur in the Breast Milk of Asymptomatic, Infected Mothers

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #96 | Date: 05 2020

Malaria still accounts for approximately 435,000 deaths each year, and the substantial majority of these deaths—some 61%—are children under five years of age. Governments of affected countries, international aid organizations and foreign donors put in place various safeguards to reduce the disease rate, including mosquito nets and preventative malaria medicine for children. Yet the World Health Organization bemoans a lack of funding in this space. In 2017, for example, 15.7 million children in the Sahel region in Africa received seasonal malaria prophylaxis, but the paucity of program funding meant that 13.6 million children who could have benefited missed out.

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Yogurt Consumption Is Associated with Reduced Mortality in Women

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #96 | Date: 05 2020

Given its beneficial effects on health, it’s perhaps not surprising that yogurt has been thought to increase lifespan. “Yogurt and other fermented milk products such as kefir have long been claimed to extend life expectancy by Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria,” says Dr. Karin Michels, now at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We were curious whether these claims would be supported by data,” she says.

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Older Adult Bone Health Linked to Breast Milk in Infancy

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #96 | Date: 05 2020

Older adults looking to keep their bones strong might turn to a glass of milk with lunch to help meet their daily calcium and vitamin D requirements. New research suggests that older adults interested in healthy bones might also want to find out what they drank for lunch as an infant.

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Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #95 | Date: 03 2020

It seems counterintuitive that breastmilk would be anything but sterile—human infants have a naïve and immature immune system and their first food should be free of potential pathogenic organisms, right? But study after study demonstrates that milk indeed contains microbes. Precisely where these microbes originate and how they make their way into human milk, however, is still being worked out. There are two, non-mutually exclusive hypotheses to explain their origins: one argues that milk microbes originate from the mother’s gut and are passed to the mammary gland (entero-mammary translocation) and the other that bacteria from the infant’s oral cavity move back into the mammary gland and influence the types and quantities of bacteria passed

How to Breed Climate-Friendly Dairy Herds

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #95 | Date: 03 2020

When methane emissions that contribute to global warming are blamed on cows, they should, more precisely, be blamed on the microorganisms that live inside them. It stands to reason, therefore, that in seeking ways to reduce methane emissions from the dairy and beef industries, researchers’ primary target should be cows’ microbiomes. In line with this perspective, a group of researchers with teams in four countries recently carried out a detailed analysis of the microorganisms living in the rumens of different herds and breeds of cattle. These researchers have identified a population of bacteria, protozoa, anaerobic fungi and archaea that consistently form the core population of the rumen microbiome. By linking microbiome components to phenotypes such

How Human Milk Oligosaccharides Can Influence Bone Biology

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #95 | Date: 03 2020

Undernutrition is a pressing global health challenge and contributes to the deaths of more than three million children under the age of five every year. Children who are considerably shorter than the median for their age are defined as stunted, and so far, nutritional interventions have been mostly unsuccessful at reducing stunting.

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PMS Symptoms Improve with Daily Recommended Dairy Intake

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #95 | Date: 03 2020

Dairy foods are probably best known for their beneficial effects on bone health. But the same vitamins and minerals from dairy that help to build and maintain strong bones—calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and riboflavin—may also have a positive influence on the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Expanding on previous research that found as association between increased calcium intake and decreased risk of PMS symptoms, a new paper from a team of Turkish researchers suggests the suite of micronutrients provided by dairy may be successful at alleviating both the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS.

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Why Breastfeeding Protects against the Most Dangerous Type of Breast Cancer

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue # | Date:

For some time, it has been known that women who have their first pregnancy in their twenties, who have many children, and who breastfeed for extended periods have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than other women. It has also been well-established that the link between breastfeeding and lower risk is strongest for triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly dangerous form of the disease. Until recently, however, science has been unable to explain why. In a series of experiments, researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh, in the UK, have now demonstrated that the production of a milk protein called alpha-casein confers protection in human cells.

Healthy Human Infant Gut Microbes Block Cow Milk Allergy in Mice

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #94 | Date: 01 2020

Proteins in food often suffer from mistaken identity. Instead of being seen as the innocuous food items they are, immune systems instead take these proteins for harmful invaders and mount a response. To understand why some immune systems are sensitized to cow milk protein whereas others have an inappropriate reaction, researchers are turning to gut bacteria. In animal models and in humans, food allergies have been associated with a lack of diversity in gut bacteria species. And specific research on cow’s milk allergy (CMA) suggests that there might be particular species of gut bacteria that can prevent the development of allergy or allow for complete resolution of CMA in

Nursing Can Provide Long-lasting Protection against Worm Infection in Mice

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #94 | Date: 01 2020

Newborn babies lack a fully developed immune system, and the transfer of maternal antibodies and other immune molecules to babies via nursing is particularly important for early immune protection. However, it has so far been unclear whether maternal immune transfer might provide long-lasting immune protection that continues beyond when babies are nursing.

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Droughts, Dairy and Discretionary Foods: Healthy and Environmentally Responsible Diets Can Mean Consuming More Dairy

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #94 | Date: 01 2020

Often, dietary advice is given from singular perspectives. Public health professionals consider nutritional benefits first and foremost. Climate activists, concerned with the carbon footprints of modern lives, frequently lobby for vegetarianism. Few studies have sought to balance these, as well as other potentially competing demands. Yet, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require balance. They aim for both sustainable consumption patterns (Goal 12), and ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 (Goal 2).

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Letter from the Editor: SPLASH! in 2020

By: Danielle G. Lemay, PhD
Issue #94 | Date: 01 2020

Since inception in 2012, we have published an astonishing 93 issues featuring 372 articles on milk science in “SPLASH!â milk science update”, the scientific publication of the International Milk Genomics Consortium.

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Genes, Diet, Environment: A Host of Factors Influence Human Milk Fatty Acids

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #93 | Date: 12 2019

Fatty acids are the most variable macronutrient in human milk. So variable, in fact, that researchers believe each mother produces her own unique milk fatty acid signature. Unfortunately, not all fatty acid signatures are optimal for infant growth and development. Decades of research have demonstrated that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid (LCPUFA), is necessary to optimize the growth and development of infant neural functions. DHA also happens to be one of the most variable fatty acids in human milk, which means many mothers produce milk with concentrations that might not meet infant developmental requirements.

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Three Investigations Find Consuming Dairy Staves off Death or Cuts Diabetes Risk

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #93 | Date: 12 2019

Diabetes is a major cause and death and morbidity around the world. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that about 9% of the global adult population has the type 2 form of the disease. Understanding dietary contributions to risk is therefore hugely important to global public health. Although genetic risk factors for type 2 diabetes do exist, the sheer rapidity of the rise in disease incidence over recent decades suggests that genetics is a minor part of the story. In a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, three papers contribute further knowledge to the field. They all describe prospective studies that followed one or several large cohorts

Stem Cells from Teeth Make Mammary Tissue

By: Ross Tellam, Ph.D.
Issue #93 | Date: 12 2019

Sometimes science stuns. It unnervingly reminds us of how little we know but also how much it could change the future, and for the better. A recent publication described how investigators isolated stem cells from adult mouse teeth and then transplanted these cells into mouse mammary fat tissue devoid of the highly specialized mammary epithelial cells that produce milk during late pregnancy and after birth. The stunning result was that mammary tissue was regenerated from the dental stem cells. Amazingly, the new mammary tissue contained cells that produced milk proteins during pregnancy and formed structures somewhat like mammary tissue ducts. The certainty of established scientific ideas about cell fate is now much more fluid.