Sheep milk is not a regular feature on supermarket shelves, except in the form of cheese. In fact, many well-known cheeses—Feta, Manchego, and Roquefort among them—are made of sheep’s milk, often unbeknownst to consumers. It is the particular composition of sheep’s milk that makes it so good for cheese making. In short, sheep’s milk is very high in solids, containing quite a bit of fat and almost double the protein content of goat’s milk and cow’s milk. But the process of making cheese leaves a lot of waste. And, according to recent studies, this leftover liquid (or whey) could find a use in the creation of novel products containing bioactive peptides. The bioactive peptides from sheep’s milk whey are of interest because they are unusually good at lowering blood pressure.
If human milk had a nutrition label, the concentration of one vitamin would really stand out. Human milk is quite low in vitamin D—lower, in fact, than the amount an infant actually needs for optimal growth and development. The discrepancy between the needs of the infant for this vitamin and its low content in milk can be reconciled, however, using an evolutionary perspective; human infants relied on ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation rather than diet to meet their vitamin D requirements. This explanation applies to populations that lived near the equator, who had ample UV radiation access throughout the year, as well as those that lived at higher latitudes with reduced UVB access. Indeed, the reliance on UVB for vitamin D synthesis was so vital that humans living at high latitudes evolved lighter skin pigmentation to increase their body’s ability to absorb UVB light.
Decoys are commonly used in hunting, politics and warfare. Their attributes are deception and diversion. The finer skills of a decoy are best exemplified in biology where millions of years of evolution have honed the occupation into a highly efficient artform. One example is a molecular decoy in milk that expertly plies its trade of deception and diversion to protect individuals from disease-causing bacteria.
The gut microbes of infants play an important role in the early development of the infant immune system and may have long-term health effects. These microbes are thought to be transmitted from the mother at birth. However, studying where exactly the infant gut microbes originate and how long they persist has been a challenge.
Within large populations there are a few people that just happen to be on the lucky side of the bouncing ball of life. Part of this luck is that their unique genetics interacts favorably with local environmental influences and dietary choices, perhaps not the whiskey, and these interactions alter their susceptibility to chronic lifestyle-related diseases. Of course, the opposite is also true as the genetic lottery of life produces winners and losers.
The past few decades have seen a steady rise in the worldwide prevalence of allergic diseases, which has spurred research aimed at figuring out ways to prevent allergies . The first six months of life are thought to offer a window of opportunity for preventing allergies. “Nowadays, most researchers and clinicians are trying to aim at this window of opportunity,” says Professor Daniel Munblit of Imperial College London, Sechenov University, and inVIVO Planetary Health.
Grab your nearest carton of milk. Find the nutrition label. Under total fat, you’ll likely find information about how much of that fat is saturated, unsaturated, and even trans fatty acids. Under carbohydrates, you’ll learn how much fiber and sugar your milk contains. But there is just one row of information when it comes to protein, giving the false impression that milk protein is not nearly as complex as milk fat or sugar. However, cow milk is made up of two different types of proteins, whey and casein, the majority of which is are caseins. There are four different subtypes of casein proteins, and for each of the four subtypes, there are dozens of different genetic variants. How’s that for complex?
It used to be that the only decision you needed to make at the dairy case was full-fat or low-fat milk. Today, consumers are faced with dozens of alternatives to conventional cow’s milk, including milks free of lactose and “milks” made from soy beans, nuts, rice, and even peas (more about that in future articles). One of the newest alternatives to hit the shelves is A2 milk. It is marketed as an easier-to-digest version of conventional cow’s milk, differing by only one amino acid in one protein chain. But does the change in one protein really change the way A2 milk is digested?
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.