species: humans

Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

It seems counterintuitive that breastmilk would be anything but sterile—human infants have a naïve and immature immune system and their first food should be free of potential pathogenic organisms, right? But study after study demonstrates that milk indeed contains microbes. Precisely where these microbes originate and how they make their way into human milk, however, is still being worked out. There are two, non-mutually exclusive hypotheses to explain their origins: one argues that milk microbes originate from the mother’s gut and are passed to the mammary gland (entero-mammary translocation) and the other that bacteria from the infant’s oral cavity move back into the mammary gland and influence the types and quantities of bacteria passed via milk (retrograde inoculation). Because not all milk microbes are equally beneficial for the infant, finding support for one or both of these hypotheses offers the potential of modifying the milk microbiome in ways that could improve infant outcomes. Read More...

How Human Milk Oligosaccharides Can Influence Bone Biology

How Human Milk Oligosaccharides Can Influence Bone Biology

Undernutrition is a pressing global health challenge and contributes to the deaths of more than three million children under the age of five every year. Children who are considerably shorter than the median for their age are defined as stunted, and so far, nutritional interventions have been mostly unsuccessful at reducing stunting. Read More...

PMS Symptoms Improve with Daily Recommended Dairy Intake

PMS Symptoms Improve with Daily Recommended Dairy Intake

Dairy foods are probably best known for their beneficial effects on bone health. But the same vitamins and minerals from dairy that help to build and maintain strong bones—calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and riboflavin—may also have a positive influence on the symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Expanding on previous research that found as association between increased calcium intake and decreased risk of PMS symptoms, a new paper from a team of Turkish researchers suggests the suite of micronutrients provided by dairy may be successful at alleviating both the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS. Read More...

Why Breastfeeding Protects against the Most Dangerous Type of Breast Cancer

Why Breastfeeding Protects against the Most Dangerous Type of Breast Cancer

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. Read More...

Healthy Human Infant Gut Microbes Block Cow Milk Allergy in Mice

Healthy Human Infant Gut Microbes Block Cow Milk Allergy in Mice

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. Read More...

Droughts, Dairy and Discretionary Foods: Healthy and Environmentally Responsible Diets Can Mean Consuming More Dairy

Droughts, Dairy and Discretionary Foods: Healthy and Environmentally Responsible Diets Can Mean Consuming More Dairy

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). Read More...

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...

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