SPLASH! milk science update: February 2016

This month’s issue features milk as a sleep aid for the elderly, breast milk’s effect on infant’s circadian rhythms, fermentation of proteins in kefir, and how a lactation hormone also affects the intestines.

Medicating the Elderly with Night Milk

Medicating the Elderly with Night Milk

Elderly people often have trouble sleeping. For those afflicted, it’s more than mere annoyance: insomnia in old age is associated with a range of health difficulties. What’s worse, many medications that are commonly prescribed to elderly people only add to the problem—including beta blockers, which treat hypertension. This is because they lower the levels of a hormone called melatonin. Yet, melatonin levels can be increased by consuming foodstuffs that are rich in them. One key source is milk collected from cows in the middle of the night. Read More...

Breast Milk, the Synchronizer

Breast Milk, the Synchronizer

Consuming a glass of warm milk before bed is supposed to make you sleep well. This old wives’ tale is repeated on websites that offer health and nutritional advice, often backed up by the detail that milk contains tryptophan, the amino acid that is the reason eating turkey purportedly makes you sleepy. But the reality is much more complex. In fact, several compounds in milk appear to have a soporific effect. And perhaps the most intriguing thing about them is that their levels alter with the time of day that the milk is produced. Read More...

Kefir Microorganisms Break Down Milk Proteins

Kefir Microorganisms Break Down Milk Proteins

Kefir is a fermented dairy drink that is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and has been shown to have beneficial health effects. The drink is made by incubating heat-treated milk with “kefir grains,” which contain sugars, proteins, lactic acid bacteria, and yeast. The kefir microorganisms are known to ferment milk lactose, but it is still unclear how they affect milk proteins and whether they break these proteins down into peptides. Read More...

Prolactin Targets Intestines Too

Prolactin Targets Intestines Too

Prolactin (PRL) is a hormone that, as its name clearly indicates, PROmotes LACTation. Although it is best known for initiating milk production in the mammary glands, prolactin actually targets numerous other tissues throughout the body during lactation. One important target is the gut, where prolactin is believed to influence calcium absorption. A new study confirms this hypothesis, demonstrating that prolactin increases the ability of the intestines to absorb calcium and transfer it to the bloodstream. These important findings show that although PRL may have the important job of telling the mammary glands to make milk, it also plays a critical role in making sure that milk has all of the necessary ingredients. Read More...