species: humans

Harnessing Cheese Microbes to Reduce an Allergy-like Reaction to Cheese

Harnessing Cheese Microbes to Reduce an Allergy-like Reaction to Cheese

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. Read More...

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

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. Read More...

Future Plastic: Biofilms Derived from Colostral Milk Proteins

Future Plastic: Biofilms Derived from Colostral Milk Proteins

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. Read More...

Chew on This: Softer Diets of Preindustrial Dairy Farmers Influenced the Shape of Their Skull

Chew on This: Softer Diets of Preindustrial Dairy Farmers Influenced the Shape of Their Skull

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. Read More...

Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

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. Read More...

Cheese May Be Good for Blood Circulation

Cheese May Be Good for Blood Circulation

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. Read More...

The Bitterness of the Maternal Diet Influences the Bitterness of Human Milk

The Bitterness of the Maternal Diet Influences the Bitterness of Human Milk

Human milk is known to provide a variety of nutrients that aid infants’ growth and development and are beneficial to their health. But as children grow a little older, they often don’t meet recommended dietary guidelines, particularly when it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables. Read More...

Fossil Teeth Tell Story of Neanderthal Life and Lactation

Fossil Teeth Tell Story of Neanderthal Life and Lactation

New parents use baby books to record the dates of all of their child’s firsts—when they first eat solid foods, take their first steps, cut their first tooth, and say their first words. These books tell part of the child’s life story, allowing parents to reminisce years later about when all of these exciting milestones happened in the life of their child. Researchers that study the evolutionary history of humans are similarly interested in knowing the dates of these developmental milestones in order to recreate life stories for fossil skeletons (albeit for the less sentimental reason of comparing to living humans). Amazingly, teeth—even those from individuals that died hundreds of thousands of years ago—act much like doting parents, capturing every day of childhood as they grow. Read More...

High-Fat Dairy Linked to Lower Diabetes Rates in Native Americans

High-Fat Dairy Linked to Lower Diabetes Rates in Native Americans

Native Americans are about twice as likely as white people in the United States to develop diabetes, and more likely to do so than any other ethnic group in the country. The reasons for this are complex, but post-reservation lifestyles and diets packed with processed sugar and saturated fats are big contributors. Given the extent of the problem, any research that identifies cheap interventions to which many people are likely to be amenable has the potential to reap substantial public health benefits. In a recent issue of the Journal of Nutrition, Kim Kummer of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues report that encouraging the consumption of full-fat dairy products, such as full-fat milk and cheese, could be a useful tool in efforts to cut the disease burden. Read More...

The Many Lives of Fat Cells

The Many Lives of Fat Cells

People obsess about fat. Many have much more fat than they need deposited in various locations in the body and it threatens both health and fashion. Fat has now developed a bad reputation. In times gone by, a bit of extra fat meant a lifesaving energy reserve in times of food scarcity. Indeed, the metabolism we have inherited from our ancestors was originally fine-tuned to suit the feast or famine lifestyle of the past; however, it is not suitable for most people in today’s world where food abundance is the norm. Fat is a simple thing, or so we thought. There have been several surprises of late. Read More...

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