SPLASH! milk science update: May 2015

This month’s issue explores how dairy consumption may protect brain health, differences in milk protein levels between humans and monkeys, genetic links to milk fat composition, and how a cow’s diet affects her milk fat.

Milk Protein Comparison Unveils Nutritional Gems for Human Infants

Milk Protein Comparison Unveils Nutritional Gems for Human Infants

As any new parent can tell you, human newborns are very needy—and for good reason. Born at an earlier developmental stage than their primate relatives, human infants must accomplish a great deal of fetal development (some say the equivalent of nine more months!) outside of the womb. Responsibility for this “fourth trimester” falls squarely on the shoulders of human breast milk, and so it is no surprise that decades of research have searched for attributes in human milk that support the unique developmental needs of human infants. While much of the focus has gone to milk fats and carbohydrates, a new study has turned the attention to milk proteins (1). Utilizing new methods in protein identification, Beck et al. present the most comprehensive human milk proteome (the list of the types and quantities of all proteins in milk) to date, as well as the first milk proteome for a nonhuman primate, the rhesus macaque. Despite having less total protein than rhesus macaque milk, Beck et al. found that human milk has more than three times the types of proteins in rhesus milk and higher quantities of nearly every milk protein that the two species share. Their findings demonstrate that from digestion, to immunity, to neurodevelopment, human infants get more of a boost from milk proteins than their primate cousins. Read More...

Foraging for Answers: Cow Feed and Milk Fat

Foraging for Answers: Cow Feed and Milk Fat

The reason that milk is opaque and white is that it is full of very small beads, or globules, of fat. What may surprise milk drinkers, though, is that these globules are highly structured, having a center composed of three-tailed fatty acids, surrounded by a membrane of quite different chemical structures. The size of these globules varies a great deal, in ways that matter for industrial processes like cheese making, and defining how much of the fat in milk is saturated, The latest research into milk fat globules has taken some bold steps: the aim is to feed cows differently, monitor how this changes the size of the globules in their milk, and work out what exactly is going on in their udders as a result. Read More...

Dairy Consumption Linked to Better Brain Health

Dairy Consumption Linked to Better Brain Health

It’s well known that milk and calcium are good for your bones, but it turns out that they might also be good for your brain. A new study suggests that dairy consumption could potentially play a role in protecting the brain from oxidative stress, a process that has been implicated both in normal aging and in many neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease. Read More...

The Fat Controllers: Dairy Cattle Genetics and Milk Fat Composition

The Fat Controllers: Dairy Cattle Genetics and Milk Fat Composition

The mixture of fats in milk fat varies a lot between dairy cow breeds, different farms, and even individual cows. Depending on what the cows eat and how long they have been milking, the percentage of fat in the milk will fluctuate. Furthermore, we also know that there is a very strong genetic influence on the quantity of milk fat [2]. The Dutch, and more recently, the Danish dairy scientists, decided to dissect the milk fat into individual components, and measure the impact of the cow’s genetic makeup on each component. Read More...