Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body and plays a key role in many of the body’s physiological functions. Despite its availability in a wide variety of foods, magnesium is often reported as being consumed at inadequate levels.
Defense wins games. Ask any coach impatiently striding the sidelines. “The defensive line-up must be ever vigilant and able to rapidly neutralize the attacking incursion, which may come from any direction. You cannot wait for help from the cover defense! Any defensive lapse will be ruthlessly exploited by this opposition and all will be lost,” shouts the coach at spent and cowed players as the bell signals the end of their halftime break. Coaches could learn a lot more about defense from biology. An exemplar defensive strategy par excellence is used by mammals, especially dairy cows, where the defensive system is the animal’s immune system, the best in the league, and the opposition threat is microbial infection.
A little over a decade ago, an article appeared in a journal devoted to diabetes research claiming that the disease did not exist among the camel-milking drinking Raica community, a group living in the desert of northwest India, in the state of Rajasthan. The study had surveyed more than 2,000 people. The defining factor in the Raica community’s healthy blood glucose levels appeared to be their camel milk consumption, not genetics, nor a holistically healthy lifestyle.
Back in the 1990s, when she had her first child, Robyn Roche-Paull was an aircraft mechanic in the United States Navy. She knew she wanted to breastfeed as long as possible, but her maternity leave was six weeks long, and then, in theory, she could be deployed to any part of the world. At that time, there was no military policy to facilitate pumping at her workplace, though she persevered. She would pump in the supply closet or the bathroom. “It was very, very difficult. The outlet I needed to plug my pump in was right by the bathroom door, and people would come in an out all the time—so the door was always opening to the hallway, with me standing right there,” she explains.
In boxing, a one-two punch is a combination of two blows delivered in rapid succession. The milk community has recently suffered a one-two punch with the loss of Gregory “Butch” Dias, Jr., California dairy farmer and chairman of the board of the California Dairy Research Foundation (CDRF) in December, and of Dr. Gonca Pasin the Executive Director of CDRF this month.
Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are crucial components of a healthy diet, but few have heard of lutein, a substance that is structurally similar to vitamin A and found in spinach and kale. Because the human body cannot make lutein, the amount that one swallows determines how much is available to protect the skin from ultraviolet light, lower the risk of some cancers, and—if relevant—moderate the progression of atherosclerosis. There is also mounting evidence that lutein is important in fetal and infant development. Fetuses and infants receive lutein directly from their mother—via blood that passes through the placenta, and by consuming human milk.
For approximately the past decade, scientists have started to wonder about potential hazards that could be posed to human health from chemicals collectively known as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals are widespread in the environment globally—they have been used in manufacturing products such as food packaging and textile coatings since the 1950s, and are now detectable in the food chain, and even in dust and dirt. Since these chemicals can accumulate in the body, researchers are studying how they might be passed from mother to infant. This appears to happen to some extent via the placenta and to a lesser extent via human milk. Such findings should not dissuade mothers from breastfeeding, however, because the levels of PFAS in infant formula have sometimes been found to be higher than those of human milk.
The first thing that comes to mind when many people think about freezing milk is ice cream. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, and custards are all sweet treats that are notable for their creamy consistency. Yet milk that has been frozen sometimes seems less appealing once it’s brought back to a liquid state. Though some might not prefer milk that has been previously frozen, the ability to freeze and store milk and dairy products can be a safe and economical way to provide beneficial nutrition that people need. Likewise, the ability to keep human milk frozen for one’s own child helps families around the world every day. A common concern about freezing milk—whether produced by human or cow—is whether nutrients are lost in the process. So what, exactly, happens when we freeze milk?
Cow milk evolved to best meet the needs of baby cows, but lucky for human consumers of milk and dairy products, many of those needs cut across species’ boundaries. Take, for example, the numerous anti-inflammatory agents found in cows milk. Although slightly different in degree and type from those found in human milk, several studies demonstrate that these factors, including calcium and the amino acid leucine, influence human markers of inflammation, particularly those related to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. And unlike baby cows, humans need not consume a milk-only diet to reap these benefits—even adding just two servings of dairy a day can have positive effects on inflammation and, by extension, human health.
There may be nothing more iconically French than the image of a luscious cheese board and bottle of aged red wine. But for those of us living in a hyper-health-conscious culture, constantly bombarded with diet and nutrition trends and fads, it would be difficult to see a wedge of Camembert and glass of Pinot Noir as anything other than an indulgence. And certainly not as a “healthy” choice. Yet decades of research show that a French diet, including a high intake of saturated fat from cheese and alcohol from wine, may lower incidence of mortality from coronary heart disease. Though researchers have long looked to the beneficial properties of antioxidants in red wine to explain this French Paradox, the benefits may actually lie with components in cheese. In particular, a recent study found that a potent intestinal enzyme, alkaline phosphatase, may be stimulated by dairy products to fight cardiovascular disease.