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Paper, Plastic or Milk?: Non-Food Uses for Milk Casein
By: Katie Rodger, Ph.D.
Issue #61 | Date: 04 2017

“Paper or plastic?” This simple question, asked daily at grocery stores and markets around the world, has become increasingly complex over the past couple of decades. The choice between all-natural, biodegradable fibers and synthetic, single-use films has political and environmental consequences ranging from deforestation to endangered sea turtles. But a recent innovation in the development of food packaging may signal a new option altogether. Instead of recycling or wasting your bag, what if you could eat it?

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The Ultimate Superfood? Milk Offers Up a Glass Full of Antioxidants
By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #61 | Date: 04 2017

Superman earned his “super” for his ability to outrun a speeding bullet and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Superfoods like açaí berries, kale, and tomatoes earned their “super” for their high concentration of nutrients, particularly those that act as antioxidants. The superlative name is appropriate. Antioxidants possess superhero-like powers that prevent damage to cells and DNA from oxidative stress, thereby reducing the risk of developing certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

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Dairy Cheese Protects Blood Vessels from Sodium’s Harmful Effects
By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #60 | Date: 03 2017

Diet plays a major role in influencing cardiovascular health. For instance, increased dairy consumption is associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure. On the other hand, an increase in dietary sodium—consumed primarily as salt—is associated with increased blood pressure and higher cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

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Mothers “Train” Their Babies to Fight Disease
By: Ross Tellam, Ph.D.
Issue #60 | Date: 03 2017

Mothers transmit more than genes to their offspring. Some intergenerational maternal influences can impact newborns through their ingestion of milk, which can enhance their chances of optimal growth and survival. Currently, the accepted opinion is that most of these maternal influences do not persist beyond weaning. However, there are scattered and tantalizing pieces of evidence suggesting there may be some exceptions to acceptance of that opinion.

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Dairy Fatty Acids Serve as Markers for Lower Diabetes Risk
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #60 | Date: 03 2017

Ask an average citizen how much fatty food they eat, and the response is likely to be a sugar-coated version of the truth. Many studies that search for links between dietary habits and complex diseases face this problem. But what if there were particular molecules that hang around in blood, which could be used to diagnose how much of a relevant foodstuff an individual typically consumes? It would mean that the disease risks attached to eating the food could be stated with greater certainty. This is exactly what Mohammad Yakoob of Harvard Medical School and his colleagues have identified in three fatty acid constituents of dairy products. Analyzing measurements of levels of these fatty acids in the blood of thousands of people enrolled in prospective studies has led these researchers to conclude that dairy fats reduce the risk of diabetes.

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Twin Study Suggests Moms Make Sex-Specific Milk
By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #60 | Date: 03 2017

Lactation biologists have long known that human milk synthesis varies across and within mothers. In the search for sources of this variation, the spotlight has been primarily directed at maternal factors. But it takes two to nurse, and human infants are not simply passive consumers of milk. Infant characteristics, from low birth weight to illness, are known to affect milk synthesis, primarily through an increase in the very ingredients needed to improve infant health, growth, or cognitive development. Human milk appears to be tailored to specific infant needs—one milk does not fit all.

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Colostrum Through a Cultural Lens
By: Katie Hinde, Ph.D.
Issue #59 | Date: 02 2017

In the first hours and days after a human baby is born, mothers aren’t producing the white biofluid that typically comes to mind when we think about milk. They synthesize a yellowish milk known as colostrum or “pre-milk.” Colostrum is the first substance human infants are adapted to consume, and despite being low in fat, colostrum plays many roles in the developing neonate. Historically and cross-culturally, colostrum was viewed very differently than it is amongst industrialized populations today.

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The Energy Cost of Immune Cell Victory
By: Ross Tellam, Ph.D.
Issue #59 | Date: 02 2017

Immune cells are strange beasts. Their favorite occupation, like a child nearing the end of a long summer vacation, is just hanging around looking for something to do. Usually, they just cruise the body in the blood, sometimes detouring into tissues seemingly just because they can. All is good.

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Milk for Ill and Pre-Term Infants
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #59 | Date: 02 2017

Unadulterated, fresh, and straight from the breast, experts agree that human milk is the best option for healthy infants. Not only does it provide the macronutrients essential to fuel and build young bodies, it actively stops infants from getting sick by dosing them with immunoglobulins and sugars that are indigestible by humans. A recent review offers a summary aimed at clinicians about how human milk may be modified to cater for the particular needs of pre-term and sick infants.

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Milk’s Bioactive Ingredients Help Wounds Heal Faster
By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #59 | Date: 02 2017

They say time heals all wounds. But can milk help those wounds heal faster? Noting milk’s ability to stimulate and support the development of an infant’s immune system, researchers posed the simple, but elegant, hypothesis that milk could accelerate the healing process by enhancing the body’s immune response.

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Dairy Farmers Prefer Healthy Manageable Cows
By: Peter Williamson, Ph.D.
Issue #58 | Date: 01 2017

Reaping the rewards of the genomic revolution in selective breeding in of dairy cows requires an informed and engaged dairy farmer response. A study published in December 2016 from a Danish group of dairy scientists reports that farmers rank health and management qualities above production traits in their cows. However, this ranking differs depending on whether the farmer is classified as organic or conventional.

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Dairy Foods Promote Calcium Absorption and Bone Mineralization
By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #58 | Date: 01 2017

Nutrition pop quiz: Which food provides the most calcium for an adult human body, 10 cups of spinach (containing 300 mg of calcium) or 1 cup of milk (also containing 300 mg of calcium)? Whereas spinach contains an acid that binds calcium and renders it almost completely indigestible, the ingredients in milk—and other dairy products—work synergistically to enhance calcium absorption and its subsequent deposition into bones in a manner not seen in any other dietary source of calcium.

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Drugs to Prevent HIV Infection are Barely Present in Human Milk
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #58 | Date: 01 2017

The World Health Organization considers someone with more than a 3% chance of contracting HIV in the next year to have a “substantial” risk of infection. This is important because it is the cut-off for which the WHO recommends taking anti-retroviral drugs, like tenofovir, to reduce the odds of infection. Breastfeeding women in sub-Saharan Africa easily meet this risk threshold. But medical professionals are discouraged from offering the drug to these women because of WHO warning labels about potential adverse reactions in nursing infants. That advice may now change, paving the way for many more at-risk women to receive HIV prophylaxis. A new study shows that when infants consume human milk from a woman taking tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine, they are exposed to extremely low levels of The World Health Organization considers someone with more than a 3% chance of contracting HIV in the next year to have a “substantial” risk of infection. This is important because it is the cut-off for which the WHO recommends taking anti-retroviral drugs, like tenofovir, to reduce the odds of infection. A new study shows that when infants consume human milk from a woman taking tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine, they are exposed to extremely low levels of either drug.drug. Therefore, the infants’ likelihood of experiencing adverse reactions is virtually non-existent.

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The Beneficial Effects of Dairy Fats on Post-Meal Inflammation
By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #58 | Date: 01 2017

Fatty foods are known to have adverse effects on health, and saturated fats in particular have been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. However, studies suggest that not all saturated fats are created equal, and the source of the fat may play a major role in determining its health risks or benefits.

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From Bench to Bedside: Translating Milk Science at the Clinician-Patient Interface
By: Katie Hinde, Ph.D.
Issue #57 | Date: 12 2016

Emerging empirical research from chemistry, microbiology, animal science, nutrition, pediatrics, and evolutionary anthropology is accelerating our understanding of the magic of milk. Understanding the context and experiences of mothers of different races highlights the persistence of health care deficits that perpetuate breastfeeding disparities.

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A Human Milk Oligosaccharide Protects Against Intestinal Infection and Inflammation
By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #57 | Date: 12 2016

Sugars found in human milk, called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), have various protective effects against intestinal infections. A new study finds that the HMO 2′-fucosyllactose (2′-FL) protects against infection and inflammation caused by the pathogen Campylobacter jejuni.

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Milk Beats Olive Oil at Cooling Hot Chili
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #57 | Date: 12 2016

Hot chili peppers have been grown as a domestic crop in some parts of South America for between 5,000 and 7,000 years. Today, they can be found in almost every corner of the world. But their biology-and how it interacts with our biology-can still be a source of surprises.

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Tasmanian Devil Milk Provides Powerful Antibacterial Proteins
By: Lauren Milligan Newmark, Ph.D.
Issue #57 | Date: 12 2016

The Tasmanian devil is best known for being a swirling, growling, trouble-making cartoon character. But the marsupial mammal’s reputation is about to get a complete makeover, thanks to new research on the function of proteins secreted in their milk and their skin.

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Happy Cows to Reduce Milk Fever
By: Peter Williamson, Ph.D.
Issue #56 | Date: 11 2016

Serotonin is best known to us as a brain factor that affects mood, with high levels associated with euphoria. However, it has much wider effects in the body, influencing gut motility, blood vessels, and osteoporosis. To scientists, this points to an interaction with calcium, and as we all know, calcium is an important component of milk and dairy products. So does serotonin influence milk calcium, and could the mood of cows affect milk production? Recent research by scientists in Wisconsin suggests that serotonin has an effect on regulating calcium in the important transition period from late pregnancy through lactation.

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Human Milk Lowers Risk of Retinopathy Among Preterm Infants
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #56 | Date: 11 2016

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a common affliction of very young preterm infants that can lead to blindness. It occurs when the blood supply to the retina develops abnormally. In some cases, this problem is so severe it can cause the retina to detach from the back inner wall of the eye. Decades ago, medical researchers demonstrated a difficulty in the care of the tiniest preterm infants: supplying these infants with lots of oxygen improved their chances of survival, while at the same time increasing their risk of ROP. A recent meta-analysis, however, offers more straightforward advice to neonatal intensive care units: Providing human milk to a very young preterm infant—whatever amount is available—significantly reduces the risk of the disease.

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Breastfeeding Molds Eye Contact in Infants at Risk of Autism
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #56 | Date: 11 2016

There is a version of a gene called CD38 that has a curious association with human behavior. This is because CD38 activity influences the release of the hormone oxytocin, occasionally nicknamed the “love” hormone but more broadly understood as a modulator of empathy and trust. Oxytocin is also found in breast milk. For this reason, a recent study reports that the longer infants who are genetically predisposed to produce low levels of oxytocin are exclusively breastfed, the more they behave as though their brains made normal amounts. With additional research, this insight could offer a means of reducing the odds of developing autism among people born with this particular genetic risk factor.

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Eating High-Fat Yogurt is Associated with a Lower Risk of Depression in Women
By: Sandeep Ravindran, Ph.D.
Issue #56 | Date: 11 2016

Over the past few years, researchers have found several intriguing links between diet and mental health. For example, unhealthy diets have been associated with a higher risk of developing depression, while healthy diets may instead have a protective effect. These effects are thought to be at least partly mediated by the gut microbiome and may be influenced by both prebiotics and probiotics.

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The First Farmers: Where Did They Come From and Where Did They Go?
By: Peter Williamson, Ph.D.
Issue #55 | Date: 10 2016

Farming was a transformational technology that began the expansion of human populations and created settlements leading to the emergence of civilization. The origin of farming can be traced to the region known as the Fertile Crescent, which covered the area from modern Egypt around the eastern Mediterranean to Anatolia, the southern Caucasus mountains in the north, and the Euphrates and Tigris valleys in the east. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of early crop production from before 11,000 years ago and have traced the spread of agriculture in all directions from this region. One of the remaining questions is whether local hunter-gatherer populations across Europe and southern Asia learned about farming from afar and began their own farming culture, or whether Neolithic farmers migrated and brought agriculture and settlement with them. So, who were these ancient farmers, where did they come from, and where did their descendants emigrate?

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Human Milk Makes People Smarter at Age 30
By: Anna Petherick, Ph.D.
Issue #55 | Date: 10 2016

Experts generally agree that consuming human milk as opposed to formula during infancy has a beneficial effect on brain development, and consequently, a beneficial effect on intelligence. Although there are swathes of studies on this topic, often the methods available to researchers are criticized—and imperfect methods make drawing firm conclusions risky. Furthermore, almost all studies in this field test intelligence during childhood and teenage years only, even though we know that cognitive functions continue to develop well into adulthood. Without data from older study participants, the field cannot be certain that people who do not receive human milk in early life don’t catch up on cognitive development later.

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