If you want to understand how an infant’s diet influences its health, you might ask, “What did the infant eat?” But the results of a new study on infant diet and weight gain suggest that this simple question is no longer sufficient; in addition to asking what, we need to be asking how, and for how long. Newly published results from over 2,500 mother-infant pairs demonstrate that the longer a mother is able to directly provide breast milk, the more closely the infant’s rate of weight gain over the first 12 months of life matches the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standards. Considering the prevalence of pumping among many breastfeeding mothers, these novel findings shouldn’t be reported without consideration of the many positive outcomes associated with feeding expressed breast milk.
People have been migrating since the dawn of human existence. It’s in our nature to survive and that drove generations of ancient humans to walk to nearly all corners of the world. The history of human migration is inscribed in detail within the DNA code of modern-day people. It is a fantastic book to read, full of drama and intrigue. One chapter contains descriptions of an ancient population migration into Europe that resulted in major cultural changes. Scientists recently concluded that the Eurasian steppe was the ancient cradle for today’s European populations and it was also one of the primary origins of dairy pastoralism. How and why ancient Eurasian populations migrated into Europe are being revealed by scientists using new technologies that trace massive ancient population migrations, changes in diets, and the movement of dairy pastoralism beginning about 4,500 years ago. The scientists along the way have answered one of the most debated questions of history. How did new ideas, especially knowledge of dairying, spread in ancient populations? Was it due to population migration and then replacement of indigenous populations or the adoption of new ideas taken from neighbors? The answer is both, but in different places.
High school science classes the world over teach that mammals are unique because females furnish their young with milk. The reality is somewhat more nuanced, and depends on your definition of milk. Indeed, there are various specialized food sources that a few non-mammals provide their offspring, among these the antibody-containing epidermal mucus found in some fish and trophic eggs in amphibians (as well as other classes of animal). In a recent issue of the journal Science, a group of researchers associated mainly with the Chinese Academy of Sciences report on the curious life of an ant-mimicking jumping spider, Toxeus magnus. They find that females of this species produce protein-rich droplets for their offspring to consume that are essential for the youngest spiders’ survival. Curiously, female offspring continue to drink this milk even after they have become sexually mature.
What would you think if you were told that your baby is part of your body? Literally. Or that you are actually part of your baby’s body? Yes, literally. As much as it sounds more of an emotional expression of love between the mother and her baby, some of the cells that contain all our genetic information (not half) are indeed exchanged between the mother and her baby, remaining alive and active in each other’s bodies for at least…decades. And although this reciprocally occurs during pregnancy via the placenta, it also continues to a large extent during breastfeeding. After all, as Barinaga beautifully exclaimed in 2002, mother’s love is enduring.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in US women aged 65 and older. It is particularly deadly among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black women, due to their increased rates of risk factors such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes compared with non-Hispanic white women.
Bacterial resistance to antibiotics poses a major challenge to global public health. Babies lack a fully developed immune system and gut microbiome, and are particularly susceptible to infections by resistant bacteria. More than 200,000 infants are estimated to die every year due to septic infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
For many years, researchers have been gathering and analyzing different sources of data to try to figure out definitively whether consuming dairy products has a net positive or net negative influence on cardiovascular health. Naively, the fact that dairy contains saturated fat suggests the proposition that it might raise the odds of having a heart attack or a stroke. However, the diversity of dairy fats, alongside a host of other health-promoting molecules found in milk, cheese and yogurts, has led many researchers to suspect the opposite might be true. A consensus has been forming that dairy products either have no noticeable effects or have protective effects on the cardiovascular system, though this has rested upon data drawn heavily from a few wealthy countries. A new study known as “PURE”— “The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology” study—has just filled in this gap. Taking in data from five continents, it reports that higher dairy consumption is linked to lower cardiovascular disease the world over.
Selective breeding has been used for many centuries—initially in a crude form by early farmers, but today using highly sophisticated genome analysis and complex algorithms. However, the goals have remained the same: to improve the efficiency of dairy production. This translates into breeding the healthiest, most productive cows suitable for the appropriate farming system and environment. New technologies have provided the capability to monitor the changes that occur with selection in great detail. Two recent papers explored the most effective methods to accomplish this and investigated changes in North American Holstein and South American Gyr dairy cattle.
This year marked the 15th annual IMGC International Symposium, held in downtown Sacramento, California, November 13–15. In spite of noticeable haze outside from the nearby wildfires, researchers, graduate students, and scholars from around the world found community and collaboration inside the beautiful conference center. Twenty-six presentations and 25 posters were complemented by panel discussions, luncheons, and a group dinner and tour of the Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings. As in years past, the symposium offered both seasoned and novice researchers a dynamic forum for exploring the innovations and implications of milk science research. Here are some of this year’s highlights.
Iron is central to survival. As part of haemoglobin, it carries oxygen around the body. But excess levels have been linked to the development of cancer and to various sensory disorders. When a cancer patient embarks on a course of chemotherapy, he often develops a persistent metallic taste in his mouth that is thought to be caused by iron in his saliva. Realizing this, a team of researchers from Virginia Tech decided to test whether giving chemotherapy patients a substance that mops up free iron, which is naturally present in human tears, milk, bile and saliva, might bring back the patients’ normal sense of taste. Although their study is small, they report remarkable success.