Since inception in 2012, we have published an astonishing 93 issues featuring 372 articles on milk science in “SPLASH!â milk science update”, the scientific publication of the International Milk Genomics Consortium.
For some time, it has been known that women who have their first pregnancy in their twenties, who have many children, and who breastfeed for extended periods have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than other women. It has also been well-established that the link between breastfeeding and lower risk is strongest for triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly dangerous form of the disease. Until recently, however, science has been unable to explain why. In a series of experiments, researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh, in the UK, have now demonstrated that the production of a milk protein called alpha-casein confers protection in human cells.
Proteins in food often suffer from mistaken identity. Instead of being seen as the innocuous food items they are, immune systems instead take these proteins for harmful invaders and mount a response. To understand why some immune systems are sensitized to cow milk protein whereas others have an inappropriate reaction, researchers are turning to gut bacteria. In animal models and in humans, food allergies have been associated with a lack of diversity in gut bacteria species. And specific research on cow’s milk allergy (CMA) suggests that there might be particular species of gut bacteria that can prevent the development of allergy or allow for complete resolution of CMA in late infancy or early childhood.
Newborn babies lack a fully developed immune system, and the transfer of maternal antibodies and other immune molecules to babies via nursing is particularly important for early immune protection. However, it has so far been unclear whether maternal immune transfer might provide long-lasting immune protection that continues beyond when babies are nursing.
Often, dietary advice is given from singular perspectives. Public health professionals consider nutritional benefits first and foremost. Climate activists, concerned with the carbon footprints of modern lives, frequently lobby for vegetarianism. Few studies have sought to balance these, as well as other potentially competing demands. Yet, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require balance. They aim for both sustainable consumption patterns (Goal 12), and ending all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2030 (Goal 2).
A recently published study in Molecular Neurobiology on April 26, 2019 may have the long-awaited answer to the molecular mechanism behind sialylated HMOs effects on intestinal nervous system maturation and function.
We are incredibly lucky. We live at a time when antibiotics work their magic saving people from infections. Only a few generations ago, infections reigned supreme and struck down some people in most families. It had always been that way, but memory quickly fades. Modern society assumes that the effectiveness of antibiotics is here to stay—it’s a monument to human ingenuity. However, the continuing emergence of antibiotic-resistant microbes and the lack of new antibiotics in the developmental cupboard are looming threats to human health, and a stark reminder that today’s respite from infection could easily be temporary.
Cheese has been a part of human diet for thousands of years. Its production relies on the complex interplay between many different microbes, which contribute to the flavor, texture, and aroma of cheese during the ripening process. This is particularly true of long-ripened cheeses, which can spend months on the shelf being acted upon by bacteria and fungi. “In long-ripened cheeses, you produce your cheese wheels and store them in your ripening cellar for the desired amount of time, and then you have the formation of a biofilm on the cheese rind, which is very important for the aroma and flavor production,” says Dr. Stephan Schmitz-Esser of Iowa State University.
It has been quite an amazing year for milk-related anthropology research. First came a study in the fall of 2018 on barium levels in the molar of a 250,000 year old Neanderthal fossil that demonstrated the child was weaned between two and three years of age, similar to the age of weaning in modern human populations. Using the same methods on even more ancient teeth, a study published this summer found that australopithecines living 2 million years ago likely weaned one to two years later than modern humans. Then in September, an analysis of plaque on several 6,000-year-old human teeth from Great Britain provided the oldest direct evidence of human consumption of cow, sheep, and goat milk. And to end the year comes a study that combines the topics of weaning and dairy agriculture—organic residue analysis on 3,000-year-old ceramic artifacts suspected of being baby bottles found fatty acids unique to ruminant milk fats, demonstrating cow or sheep or goat milks were used as weaning foods for infants and young children after the advent of agriculture.
Every so often on The Jimmy Fallon Show, celebrities attempt an interview whilst eating chicken wings that are dowsed in chili sauce. With every next chicken wing the sauce gets hotter, and the celebrity responses become less coherent. There is always a glass of milk on the table. It is there, presumably, because the show’s producers know that milk has been shown to be especially useful at extinguishing the sensation of burning in the mouth.