SPLASH! milk science update: February 2014 issue

This month’s issue features articles about sex-biased milk production, milk as brain food, lactation and cancer research, and milk’s valuable fats. Enjoy!

Fetal Daughters Influence Milk Production in Cows

Fetal Daughters Influence Milk Production in Cows

Functional development of the mammary gland occurs during pregnancy. When dairy cows and goats are gestating twins, mammary gland development is amplified due to hormonal signals from the much larger fetal-placental unit. Carrying twins seemingly programs higher milk production to meet the needs of “double the trouble” (Nielen et al., 1989, Hayden et al., 1979). But what if fetal-placental signals aren’t just about the number of offspring, what if other features are signaled that influence milk production, features like infant gender? Read More...

Brain Building Blocks in Milk

Brain Building Blocks in Milk

The combination of fat and sugar may be off limits for South Beach dieters, but a fat-sugar molecule could be just what human infants need to help their brains develop and to fight off pathogens. These molecules, called gangliosides, have been identified in human, bovine, and other mammalian milks. Although it has long been known that milk gangliosides are involved in infant immunity and neural development, researchers are only now beginning to elucidate the specific, and critical, roles they play in each process. And what scientists have uncovered just might make even the most careful dieter think twice about fat and sugar. Read More...

Breastmilk as a Tool to Shed Light on Breast Cancer

Breastmilk as a Tool to Shed Light on Breast Cancer

When we discuss breastmilk we usually think of the baby. And rightly so, because this golden liquid contains all the nutrition, protection, and developmental signals the baby needs to grow healthily and appropriately. Research, however, is now starting to also consider the mother and ask what breastmilk can tell us about her health, the function of her breasts, her predisposition to developing breast cancer, and ultimately, the mechanisms that can lead to cancer. What is in the milk that can answer these questions? Read More...

Getting More (Phospholipids) Out of Milk

Getting More (Phospholipids) Out of Milk

In recent years, each solid fraction of milk has been revealed to contain functionally relevant complexity that had previously gone unappreciated. The protein portion of breast milk, for example, is broken down by milk enzymes into many smaller peptides, of which at least 41 fight bacteria. The oligosaccharide portion has a long list of roles, from nourishing ‘good’ gut bacteria to encouraging proper immune system development. And now there is also some evidence that different fats appear in milk in different proportions at different times in a young mammal’s life and in patterns that may help the young mammal to grow healthily. Moreover, researchers are asking whether the fats in question also influence the health of older humans, a line of investigation that could one day lead to fat-specific dairy products for the purpose of addressing certain health issues. Read More...