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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.

Highlights from the 2019 IMGC Symposium

By: Peter Williamson, Ph.D.
Issue #93 | Date: 12 2019

The 2019 International Symposium on Milk Genomics and Human Health, the sixteenth in this series, was held in Aarhus, Denmark, home to Aarhus University and Arla Foods. The local organizing committee designed a diverse and engaging program and provided a warm welcome during a cool Danish November. There was a total of 28 speakers over three days of thought-provoking science, and as always with these meetings, there was a great blend of dairy food science, nutrition, animal science and, this year, the hot topic of sustainability.

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Fighting the Resistome

By: Ross Tellam, Ph.D.
Issue #92 | Date: 11 2019

We are incredibly lucky. We live at a time when antibiotics work their magic saving people from infections. Only a few generations ago, infections reigned supreme and struck down some people in most families. It had always been that way, but memory quickly fades. Modern society assumes that the effectiveness of antibiotics is here to stay—it’s a monument to human ingenuity. However, the continuing emergence of antibiotic-resistant microbes and the lack of new antibiotics in the developmental cupboard are looming threats to human health, and a stark reminder that today’s respite from infection could easily be temporary.

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Harnessing Cheese Microbes to Reduce an Allergy-like Reaction to Cheese

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #92 | Date: 11 2019

Cheese has been a part of human diet for thousands of years. Its production relies on the complex interplay between many different microbes, which contribute to the flavor, texture, and aroma of cheese during the ripening process. This is particularly true of long-ripened cheeses, which can spend months on the shelf being acted upon by bacteria and fungi. “In long-ripened cheeses, you produce your cheese wheels and store them in your ripening cellar for the desired amount of time, and then you have the formation of a biofilm on the cheese rind, which is very important for the aroma and flavor production,” says Dr. Stephan Schmitz-Esser of Iowa State University.

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #92 | Date: 11 2019

It has been quite an amazing year for milk-related anthropology research. First came a study in the fall of 2018 on barium levels in the molar of a 250,000 year old Neanderthal fossil that demonstrated the child was weaned between two and three years of age, similar to the age of weaning in modern human populations. Using the same methods on even more ancient teeth, a study published this summer found that australopithecines living 2 million years ago likely weaned one to two years later than modern humans. Then in September, an analysis of plaque on several 6,000-year-old human teeth from Great Britain provided the oldest direct evidence of human consumption

Skim Milk Beats Hot Chili’s Burn Just Like the Full-Fat Option

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #92 | Date: 11 2019

Every so often on The Jimmy Fallon Show, celebrities attempt an interview whilst eating chicken wings that are dowsed in chili sauce. With every next chicken wing the sauce gets hotter, and the celebrity responses become less coherent. There is always a glass of milk on the table. It is there, presumably, because the show’s producers know that milk has been shown to be especially useful at extinguishing the sensation of burning in the mouth.

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Future Plastic: Biofilms Derived from Colostral Milk Proteins

By: Katie Rodger, Ph.D.
Issue #91 | Date: 10 2019

We all know that plastics are bad for the environment, and there is ongoing research indicating they are harmful to humans as well. When microplastics—less than 5 mm in length—get into oceans and tributaries, they end up in the fish and plants that we may consume. But plastic is an integral part of our lives. Computers, cars, and many household appliances are, or include components made of, plastic. Medical equipment like syringes, gloves, and the little plastic filters that go over thermometers for each new patient are one-time use items that help ensure good hygiene. And, of course, much of the food we buy is wrapped in plastic for both convenience as well

Chew on This: Softer Diets of Preindustrial Dairy Farmers Influenced the Shape of Their Skull

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #91 | Date: 10 2019

The human family tree has an extinct genus that is remarkable for their massive jawbones, molars, and cranial crests (picture a bony mohawk). All of these anatomical features are proposed adaptations to the tough, fibrous diet of genus Paranthropus; hard and chewy diets require large chewing muscles, which in turn require larger jaw and cranial bones (and crests!) for points of attachment.

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Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #91 | Date: 10 2019

The human newborn’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract is immature and heavily reliant on components from human milk to successfully adapt to the novel challenges of life outside of the uterus. Recent research has highlighted the important role of milk’s bioactive components in establishing a healthy gut microbiome. Starting life off with the right mix of bacteria in the GI tract is essential not only for the development of the gut but also for mucosal immunity. It is so essential, in fact, the gut microbiome has been referred to as an ancillary immune organ.

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Cheese May Be Good for Blood Circulation

By: Ross Tellam, Ph.D.
Issue #91 | Date: 10 2019

Cheese is much more than just food. It is a part of the compelling story of ancient and modern human civilization. The huge range of cheeses today reflects the diversity of human taste and history. Cheese types also became a metaphor for public opinion. As Charles de Gaulle frustratingly said, “How can you govern a country (France), which has 246 varieties of cheese.” Adding to this impressive résumé of achievements, investigators recently demonstrated that hard cheese may also be good for blood circulation in older adults.

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Cows May Go Green

By: Ross Tellam, Ph.D.
Issue #90 | Date: 09 2019

It’s a tough gig being a cow. Productivity expectations for meat and milk are high, and at the same time, the cow gets a bad rap for belching a potent greenhouse gas, methane, which is a by-product of its digestion. Some people say it’s like driving a car very hard on a winding mountain road and then complaining about the car’s increased exhaust gas emissions. Reducing emissions and fuel consumption while maintaining performance is the golden ambition of car manufacturers. A similar goal is also true for the cow. People in many government agricultural agencies and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) want the beef and dairy industries to use more productive cattle emitting less methane and

Dairy Intake May Help Protect Against Functional Disability in the Elderly

By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #90 | Date: 09 2019

Aging-related ailments can interfere with the daily life of the elderly. Older adults are at greater risk of diseases such as dementia or cardiovascular and orthopedic diseases. These diseases can contribute to functional disability—a decrease in physical, cognitive or emotional functioning that results from a health condition and adversely affects a person’s daily personal and social activities. Researchers have thus been looking for ways to decrease functional disability in the elderly.

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Does Human Milk Composition Make the Infant Body Clock Tick?

By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #90 | Date: 09 2019

Human beings have internal clocks. Locked in a room with no source of daylight nor regularly scheduled stimulation, our bodies cycle automatically through periods of slightly longer than 24 hours, sleeping and waking more or less as if the sun were rising and falling over a horizon that we could see. But we are not born this way. Instead, infants develop body clocks gradually. Researchers investigating this aspect of development have recently wondered how much human milk contributes to the process, in the knowledge that its levels of nutrients and hormones vary over the course of the day.

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