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.
We all know that plastics are bad for the environment, and there is ongoing research indicating they are harmful to humans as well. When microplastics—less than 5 mm in length—get into oceans and tributaries, they end up in the fish and plants that we may consume. But plastic is an integral part of our lives. Computers, cars, and many household appliances are, or include components made of, plastic. Medical equipment like syringes, gloves, and the little plastic filters that go over thermometers for each new patient are one-time use items that help ensure good hygiene. And, of course, much of the food we buy is wrapped in plastic for both convenience as well as protection from contamination. In fact, it’s hard to imagine giving up the assurances that plastic can provide us when it comes to keeping our food safe. But advances in the development of milk protein-based edible films may soon make those wrappers not only less wasteful but even beneficial to our health, thus letting us have our cake and safely eating it, too.
The human family tree has an extinct genus that is remarkable for their massive jawbones, molars, and cranial crests (picture a bony mohawk). All of these anatomical features are proposed adaptations to the tough, fibrous diet of genus Paranthropus; hard and chewy diets require large chewing muscles, which in turn require larger jaw and cranial bones (and crests!) for points of attachment.
The human newborn’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract is immature and heavily reliant on components from human milk to successfully adapt to the novel challenges of life outside of the uterus. Recent research has highlighted the important role of milk’s bioactive components in establishing a healthy gut microbiome. Starting life off with the right mix of bacteria in the GI tract is essential not only for the development of the gut but also for mucosal immunity. It is so essential, in fact, the gut microbiome has been referred to as an ancillary immune organ.
Cheese is much more than just food. It is a part of the compelling story of ancient and modern human civilization. The huge range of cheeses today reflects the diversity of human taste and history. Cheese types also became a metaphor for public opinion. As Charles de Gaulle frustratingly said, “How can you govern a country (France), which has 246 varieties of cheese.” Adding to this impressive résumé of achievements, investigators recently demonstrated that hard cheese may also be good for blood circulation in older adults.
It’s a tough gig being a cow. Productivity expectations for meat and milk are high, and at the same time, the cow gets a bad rap for belching a potent greenhouse gas, methane, which is a by-product of its digestion. Some people say it’s like driving a car very hard on a winding mountain road and then complaining about the car’s increased exhaust gas emissions. Reducing emissions and fuel consumption while maintaining performance is the golden ambition of car manufacturers. A similar goal is also true for the cow. People in many government agricultural agencies and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) want the beef and dairy industries to use more productive cattle emitting less methane and using less feed i.e., increasing industry production efficiency while decreasing its environmental footprint. It’s a tall order seemingly resisted by the realities of cow biology, however recent ground-breaking research may have opened new opportunities to meet these ambitious aims.