SPLASH! milk science update: April 2015

This month’s issue features the regenerative powers of milk molecules, dairy and insulin resistance, breastfeeding and vitamin D deficiency, and an infection-fighting formula.

Breastfeeding and Vitamin D Deficiency

Breastfeeding and Vitamin D Deficiency

Breastfed babies get all the nourishment they need from their mother's milk—right? Almost. One nutrient they don't get enough of from breast milk is vitamin D, a hormone essential for babies' growth and health. Instead, infants rely on vitamin D transferred from their mother via the placenta during early pregnancy; vitamin D produced in the baby's skin after sun exposure; or vitamin D supplied via infant formula. Recently, it's become clear that vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women is widespread in many parts of the world (1). This means that many babies who are exclusively breastfed and also kept out of the sun— as recommended by health authorities—are lacking in vitamin D. To tackle this global health problem, a new study (2) calls for greater attention to the vitamin D levels in pregnant mothers and newborns. Read More...

The Regenerating Powers of Human Milk Molecules

The Regenerating Powers of Human Milk Molecules

What do breast milk, regenerating flatworms, and infected mice have in common? That might sound like a particularly cryptic riddle, but the answer may improve our understanding of the beneficial properties of breast milk and could potentially lead to new therapies for many diseases. In a new study, Charles Serhan and his team from Brigham and Women’s Hospital identified new chemical signals that help resolve bacterial infections and speed up tissue repair and regeneration [1]. They isolated these molecules from human breast milk, mice with self-limiting bacterial infections, and regenerating flatworms called planaria. Read More...

Dairy Foods and Insulin Resistance

Dairy Foods and Insulin Resistance

Can being more sensitive make you healthier? It can, if you are one of the nearly 30 million Americans living with type 2 diabetes. Although type 2 diabetics produce insulin, they have a very low sensitivity to this hormone. Without injecting additional insulin, blood sugar levels reach unhealthy levels that, over time, can result in damage to the kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. While diabetics are instructed to avoid foods that raise blood sugar levels, there are other foods that could be ideal for diabetics because they can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Topping this list are dairy foods such as milk and yogurt that have bioactive factors that increase the body’s response to insulin and a low glycemic index. But despite these demonstrated physiological actions, many studies have failed to show any effect of increased dairy intake on blood glucose metabolism. Two new review papers (1, 2) help make sense of these conflicting findings and suggest the discrepancy may have more to do with the complexities of studying a metabolic disease, than the biological effects of dairy on insulin tolerance. Read More...

Infection-Fighting Formula

Infection-Fighting Formula

There is a plethora of ways in which the composition of infant formula differs from that of breast milk. For one, the latter has a far greater diversity of ingredients, which are still not exhaustively known. But there are also plenty of known constituents of breast milk that are absent from infant formula. One team of researchers is dedicated to figuring out the implications of adding one kind of missing ingredient in particular—milk fat globule membrane (MFGM)—on infants’ health and development. Recently, this group identified some benefits to infants’ abilities to cope with infections when the infant formula they consume contains this supplement [1]. Read More...