A team of researchers from Washington State University and the University of Idaho received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture & Food Research Initiative Competitive Grants Program to organize a national conference on the compositions of bovine and human milk.
Made up of experts in human nutrition, dairy science and lactation at both schools, the team will organize and lead the Conference on Dairy Foods: Management, Production, Bioactive Compounds to Enhance Health in November 2018 in Washington, D.C.
“Understanding the factors that cause variation in the nutrient and bioactive components of bovine milk will aid in our understanding of the optimal intake of dairy products for the human consumer,” said Mark McGuire, associate dean in the University of Illinois College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and director of the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station.
According to the announcement, the conference will address the factors that regulate the bioactive components in bovine and human milk. By understanding how these factors are regulated, researchers will be able to improve concentrations in milk that ultimately should lead to better health — such as reductions in inflammation and improved gastrointestinal health in consumers.
“Human milk is the only food ever designed by nature to feed humans, but cows’ milk comes close,” said Michelle “Shelley” McGuire, professor in the Washington State University School of Biological Sciences. “The more we can learn about both kinds of milk, the better we’ll be able to understand human nutritional needs.”
The team includes Mark and Shelley McGuire; Naomi Fukagawa, director of the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, and John Finley, Washington State alumnus and national program leader for Human Nutrition at USDA's Agricultural Research Service in Maryland.
“This project exemplifies the benefits of interdisciplinary research,” Janet E. Nelson, University of Illinois vice president for research and economic development, said. “It brings together researchers from anthropology, genomics, proteomics, microbiology and data sciences in a way that can make a positive and significant impact on human health.”
The grant builds on dairy and human milk research at both universities and will focus on linking agricultural practices to human health, the announcement said.
Chris Keane, Washington State vice president for research, said through this partnership between Washington State and the University of Idaho, "we will build the foundation for this research to have a broad societal impact on human health and agricultural practices.”