Thursday, December 6, 2007

Raw Milk Health Advisories: December

TOPEKA | Raw milk sickens 87 in Kansas

Saying at least 87 people in Kansas have been sickened by bacteria found in raw milk, health officials are warning residents not to consume raw milk or products made from it.

In Kearny County, 68 people became ill after eating cheese made from milk donated by a local dairy for a community celebration. The second outbreak was linked to a dairy in south-central Kansas that sells raw milk to consumers.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Raw Milk Health Advisories: November 2007 - 2

A second raw milk health advisory again from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

According to, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Department of Agriculture has once again announced a recall regarding raw milk. The warning is for anyone who has purchased raw milk from the Conebella dairy farm in Elverson, Chester County, Pennsylvania.
From: Associated Content

The Penn Dept of Ag puts out by far the most of these sorts of warnings (check out previous posts on this subject and you'll see that maybe two were not from them). Seems that raw milk sellers in Pennsylvania are under the microscope, so to speak.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Raw Milk Health Advisories: November 2007

Agriculture Department Warns Consumers of Tainted Raw Milk Sold by Chester County Dairy

    HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumers who have
purchased raw milk from the Conebella dairy farm in Elverson, Chester
County, any time after Oct. 23, should discard it immediately due to the
risk of Salmonellosis contamination, Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff
said today.
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized.
"During routine inspection of the dairy, a preliminary test showed the
presence of Salmonella bacteria in some raw milk samples," said Wolff. "If
consumers have raw milk from this farm, they should discard it
No illnesses have been reported as a result of the potential
contamination but if people who consumed the raw milk become ill, they
should consult their physicians.
The Department of Agriculture has suspended sales of raw milk at the
dairy and is requiring corrective action be taken. Samples were taken from
the farm during routine testing on Nov. 13, and tested positive for
Salmonella on Nov. 16.
Multiple laboratory samples must test negative before sales can resume.
Symptoms of Salmonellosis include fever, abdominal pain and
gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. Symptoms usually
appear six to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007

More good news on Omega-3s

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. From the website Food Navigator USA we find out that a recent study has found that omega-3 supplementation could be more useful at preventing colorectal cancer than the currently available suite of drugs used to treat the disease. At least this is true for mice.

Colorectal cancer is the #2 killer from cancers in the U.S. Finding alternatives to current colorectal cancer drugs is important due to reported side-effect from long-term use.

The report adds more evidence to the anti-cancer effect of omega-3 and is the second study in the space of a week which adds support to the role of the oil as suppressing tissue inflammation.
This study also points to the importance of not only increasing omega-3s but in reducing one's omega-6 intake. Though omega-6s are an essential fatty acid we get them in abundance from our diet. Some research has shown that have a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s that is too high can increase your risk of inflammation which has been associated with many diseases.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Raw Milk Health Advisories: July 2007

July 24, 2007

Raw milk sickens three Georgia families
Raw milk sold as pet food sickened three northwest Georgia families who drank the milk this summer, sending at least one child to the hospital, health officials said Monday.


State tells Stump Acres Dairy to stop raw milk giveaway
The state Department of Health told Stump Acres Dairy last week to stop giving away raw milk to the public following continuing cases of salmonella that has now been linked to the milk.

The Stump family, of New Salem, had been selling the milk until, on two occasions earlier this year, the department had asked it to stop sales. Then the dairy decided to give the milk away free to customers.


July 30, 2007

Autumn Valley Farm today alerted consumers of possible Listeria contamination in its "unpasteurized" raw farm milk.


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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Raw Milk and Health

Got Bootleg Milk?

I have no problem with people deciding on their own if they want to have raw milk or not. What I don't like is the cloak of misinformation and paranoia that surrounds the raw milk advocates. Take for example this post by Gene Logsdon in the "Organic To Be" blog.

Seems Mr. Logsdon grew-up drinking raw milk and he's just fine. In fact he's better than fine. Good teeth and bones despite ware and healthy blood work to boot despite a butter/meat/dairy habit that would drive a conventional doctor/nutritionist bonkers (never mind that it may be Mr. Logsdon's genetics rather than his diet that makes him so healthy). Seems we always get these sorts of down-home tales when someone is trying to sell us something (like Fred Thompson... But I digress).

I am very happy for Mr. Logsdon but there are many people who have been sickened by raw milk. You can go down the list in this blog and see yourself that there have been six separate events (with many people involved in each event) since May of this year. This is not to say that people should not drink raw milk. There is some evidence that raw milk is more beneficial than is pasteurized milk 1, 2. But I would love to see the raw milk advocates also mention the higher risks involved when choosing to do so rather than give us a homespun story about how safe it is.

But if how wonderfully healthy raw milk is, is not enough to convince you to switch then for a kicker we get a bit of paranoia into the mix. Seems that the anti-raw milk people (the all pervasive and powerful pasteurization industry) wants to squash raw milk at every turn. I'll suggest that perhaps there is an alternative reason for the "anti-raw milk police". Perhaps, just perhaps there are well meaning health departments and law makers who have the statistics on illness associated with raw milk and have decided it is an easily defeated public health risk. A public health risk that is removed with a simple step of pasteurization. It may well be that with more information on the health benefits of raw milk the actions of the public health officials may be misguided but one need not build a great conspiracy to see why we have the laws we do.

Personally I'd like to see raw milk made available everywhere with the condition that a "black box" warning be placed clearly on any container. I'd also like to see if there are alternatives to raw milk, such as omega-3s, that provide the same health benefits without the risks.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Omega-3s and eating fish: Weighing the risks

It may be the biggest irony in food nutrition: Fish is one of the
best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy answer to
cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans.

But fish also contain traces of mercury and other pollutants that
are particularly damaging to the neurological development of
fetuses and young children.

That is enough to make some parents and pregnant women cut
back on fish, or avoid it altogether. Health experts, however, are
saying you can have your fish and eat it, too -- simply by being
smart about what kind you buy.

More of the story

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Raw Milk Health Advisories: June 2007

June 15, 2007

Consumers who have purchased raw milk from Piney Ridge Farm in New Bethlehem any time after May 21 should discard it immediately due to the risk of Listeria monocytogenes contamination, Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff said today.


June 5, 2007

Consumers who purchased raw milk from the Green Acres Jersey Farm in Lebanon County (Pennsylvania) any time after May 8 should discard it immediately due to Listeria monocytogenes bacteria contamination, Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff said today.

See story1
Story 2

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Omega-3s linked to stronger bones

Increasing omega-3 fatty acid intake in the diet at the expense of omega-6 fatty acids may boost bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

More here

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Good News on Raw Milk

Derived from ScienceDaily

Key findings:
  • Raw Milk reduces the incidence of hayfever and asthma
  • Evidence suggests that this protection is maintained after boiling the raw milk
  • No evidence for decreased incidence of eczema with raw milk consuption
  • Raw Milk still not recommended by researcher due to other health issues

A recent study of 14,893 children aged between five and 13 in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland found that drinking raw milk can protect children against asthma and hayfever.

The children were drawn from farm children, rural and suburban communities and Waldorf schools.

None of the farm products had any effect on eczema levels. "All the children drinking unpasteurized farm milk and eating other farm-related dairy products showed the same level of protection against asthma and allergies, regardless of whether they were living on a farm or not" says lead author Marco Waser, a doctor in natural sciences from the Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

About half of the parents who told researchers that their child regularly drank farm milk said that they did not boil the milk before giving it to them. The protective results were the same, regardless of whether milk was boiled or not.

However, as drinking raw milk is not recommended, especially for young children, this may have encouraged parents to say they boiled milk when they didn't, indicating a higher level of raw milk consumption. "The results of this study indicate that all children drinking farm milk have a lower chance of developing asthma and hayfever" says Dr Waser.

"However raw milk may contain pathogens such as salmonella or enterohaemorrhagic E coli and its consumption may have serious health risks.

"We need to develop a deeper understanding of why farm milk offers children this higher level or protection and investigate ways of making the product safer, while retaining these protective qualities. "At the moment we can only speculate about why farm milk protects children against asthma and allergies. Perhaps it is because farm milk has different levels or compositions of pathogenic and non-pathogenic microbes to milk sold in shops.

"It is interesting that there was no difference in the farm milk results regardless of whether it was boiled before consumption. As boiling is likely to have been over-reported, this could indicate that pasteurization is not as important as previously thought, as compounds other than microbes may offer a protective role.

"But despite our findings, we cannot recommend consumption of raw farm milk as a preventative measure against asthma and allergies."

More at the Moonie owned UPI

Monday, May 7, 2007

Raw Milk Health Advisories

Raw Milk Health Advisories:

Having seen about eight health warnings in the past two months with respect to raw milk I thought it might be a good service to start keeping track of when and where such warnings are making it into the news. Started May 5, 2007.

May 10, 2007
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issues health warning about contaminated raw milk.
Consumers who have purchased raw milk from Misty Meadow Farm in Bernville, Berks County, any time after April 16 should discard it immediately due to the risk of Listeria contamination
Story 1

May 5, 2007

The Illinois Department of Public Health Friday issued a warning about contaminated raw milk.
Story 1, Story 2

May 2, 2007
Indiana State health officials warn citizens on recent illnesses from raw dairy products
From: Tribune-Star
Two recent confirmed cases of listeriosis and campylobacteriosis were identified in pregnant women in Indiana, associated with the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products. The likely sources of those infections are raw milk purchased at a farm and unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese (queso fresco) purchased from a door-to-door vendor, the release stated.
See also

Friday, April 20, 2007

Health Points: April 14th to 20th

This week a couple of article that were published in Science look interesting:

A new study show that the genetic risk factors for Autism are greater than previously thought.
Strong Association of De Novo Copy Number Mutations with Autism
Science 20 April 2007:
Vol. 316. no. 5823, pp. 445 - 449

This of course does not mean that there are not epigenetic, environmental, or infectious factors involved in coming down with autism, just that genetics may indicate a higher susceptibility.

Another new study brings into question the belief that anti-depressants could lead to suicide in young people.

Study Questions Antidepressant Risks
Science 20 April 2007:
Vol. 316. no. 5823, p. 354
An analysis of 27 clinical trials of antidepressants in youngsters has found a negligible risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, with the treated groups showing 0.7% greater risk than participants given a placebo. The study comes more than 2 years after regulatory agencies worldwide warned doctors to take great care in prescribing the drugs to children and teenagers because they might increase "suicidality." Since then, controversy has grown over whether the risks have been exaggerated.
Seems that the BigPharma may have been given the short end of the stick in this controversy. I think that's a rare event, but maybe I'm wrong.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Low Sugar Coconut Ice Cream

So I'm not up on the relative health benefits of coconut milk[1*,2*]and coconut oil though there are those out there going gaga for it (and those out there who have other ideas) It seems that there might be an association between a certain constituent molecule in coconut oil, lauric acid [1,2*], and health benefits.

Despite those statements, coconut milk is very high in saturated fat so I would still not say that the following recipe is a healthy one. Maybe this will get some further research. But one thing I do know is that the modern diet contains far too much sugar.

Low Sugar Coconut Ice Cream

1 Cup Whipping Cream
1 Can (~14oz.) Coconut Milk
2 Table Spoons Honey
1-2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

I know, I know. But I said low sugar, not low fat.
Empty can of coconut milk into bowl, whisk in honey until fully mixed (if granulated sugar, until fully dissolved). Add cream, mix. Add vanilla,mix. Put in ice cream maker. Takes about 25 minutes (about 10minutes less than usual) in our machine.

I'd recommend organic ingredients since there is an indication that they are higher in omega-3s and raw honey.
If you have not been doing the low sugar thing up to this point this is not necessarily the recipe to go cold turkey with. The original recipe that this is lightly based on called for 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. I'd recommend then that you start out with about 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (or equivalent honey) and work your way down. Sugar is like salt in that the more you consume the higher the threshold you have for tasting it. Today, when I have a cookie or pastry not made with reduced sugar it is basically repellingly sweet.
And remember, moderation in everything (within moderation).

* The sites linked are to groups or individuals advocating a position. These sites can look and feel very much like scientific sites with scientific authority and backing. Yet science is based on the concept of inquiry and advocacy is generally the opposite of inquiry. This is not to say that the information provided is not true or unhelpful. One way to view this is that advocacy tries to paints things in black and white and it is my take home understanding that this particular issue has an a lot of gray in it. What are the shades of gray is what it is all about.

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Sunday, April 8, 2007

Omega-3s: More on ALA:EPA:DHA

This is a reply to this comment left by Maikeru on the post Omega-3 Fats: The Right Ratio.

Hi Maikeru,

The ALA/DHA/EPA question is an important one for those interested in improving their omega-3 intake. ALA is found primarily in plants such as greens and some seeds while the other two are derived primarily from fish and land animals.

There is an interesting book on the subject called The Queen of Fats by Susan Allport that is well written and engaging. There she describes a competitive reaction with an 18 carbon omega-6 fatty acid for the enzyme involved with carbon addition to make the 20 carbon chain acids. Thus what she is saying is with too high an intake of the omega-6 acids the body will favor the production of the omega-6 20 carbon acid over the conversion of ALA to EPA. This conflict between the two fatty acid families is not well known and thus not accounted for in studies of ALA conversion in the body.

While it might seem logical to just bypass the problem all together by only eating fish and meats there are of course some complications. Fish higher up in the food chain tend to concentrate the pollutants that humans have been adding to the oceans and lakes of the world (another socialized cost of "cheap" electricity. Coal contains a lot of mercury which winds up in the worlds waters and in fish.) In addition the worlds fish populations are in serious jeopardy of being over fished with some reporting fishery degradation in every spot on Earth and around 80% fishery collapse. Getting omega-3s from fish (the highest concentration) is not sustainable. There are a few companies that are going right to the source and gathering DHA from algae.

As for meats, though grass fed animals are higher in omega-3s than are grain fed animals they are not near the 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 that is thought to represent our evolutionary diet. Meats are also high in saturated fats which are still widely seen as unhealthful. Lastly, though the omega-3 content is likely playing some role in this, every study of health and diet points to the importance of green (or better yet, colorful) plants (fruits and vegetables) in the diet.

So considering the we could potentially get a lot of our omega-3s form the plants we eat if we 1) cut back on the amount of omega-6s and 2) increased our consumption of fruits and vegetables we should try to get most of our omega-3s that way but I would still supplement with pharmaceutical grade fish oils or something like that (particularly after a fat laden meal out) since our understanding is still rudimentary.

It should be mentioned again that anyone that wants to radically change their diet should consult their physician and their own body. High omega-3 diets are known to increase bleeding. There may be other complications that are not well known.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

School education fails to improve condom use

An interesting study based in Scotland that showed no increase in condom use even when students knowledge of condoms was improved. There persisted, despite education efforts, a sense that illness would not occur and thus condoms were thought not useful.

School-based education programmes may not be the answer to spiralling rates of sexually transmitted infections, analysis of a scheme in Scotland suggests. Healthy Respect, a classroom-based education programme delivered by trained teachers and nurses, produced no change in attitudes or intention to use condoms and no reduction in sexual intercourse in those under 16 years of age. The lack of behaviour change was clearly apparent despite teenagers having more knowledge of where to access condoms and how to use them effectively.

A second phase of the project, running until 2008, is focusing on areas where the team feel more progress will be made, such as increasing access to drop-in centres. “Sexual health programmes at school alone will not substantially mitigate against the factors that are shaping young people's risky behaviour”, Tucker continued. She added that governments should stop funding unsustainable efforts and projects that are poorly thought-out.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Response to Dave's comment @ CP blog

This is in response to Dave over at the "Complete Patient Blog" on a recent posted entitled "Chewing on a Mother's Real Message About Raw Milk, and the Risks of Dramatic Stories"

First, the notion that 1/3 of milk-related illness is due to raw milk...

Those of you wishing to believe that statistic probably cannot be dissuaded, but the first time I saw it in print, I tried to track it down to root data, and was simply unable to do it. The raw data does not support the claim. Nevertheless it is gradually, maddeningly, becoming true by repitition! Ken. please look into this. You will find that most of the claims of illness from raw milk come from government investigators who have a nasty habit of making assumptions that fall into line with their job descriptions. You do not have to take my word on that---do the due diligence and look at the claims.

Fair enough. I actually picked up that statistic reading your site. I saw it being bantered about by raw milk supporters so I thought it accurate enough. Unfortunately to have to rely on non-government reports of raw milk illnesses for raw milk illness statistics is untenable. The people who investigate, gather and publish such statistics are these government people. I take it from your post that you view these people as having a conflict of interest. In what way? And if these numbers cannot be trusted (since I generally do not believe in conspiracies, let's assume that they subconsciously err on the side of blaming raw milk) how could one make any decision on raw milk?

Let us say that, due to socialization and what not, that these investigators unfairly accuse raw milk for illnesses 5 out of 10 times. Personally I think that such an error rate is extremely unlikely. But if true this means is that only half of the illness that are being ascribed to raw milk are real. To make it simple (and even reduce the illness rate ascribed to raw milk some more) let's say that raw milk accounts for only 15% of all cases. Even if that where true that would mean that something, if we are being really generous, that accounts for less than 0.1% (I'd guess 0.001% or less) of all milk sales accounts for 15% of all milk related illness. This does not speak well for the risk profile of raw milk.

And also on that same subject: If raw milk is so dangerous, or even deadly as some say, why are indiginous cultures with very heavy reliance on raw dairy able to survive so healthfully? The Masai in Africa (our contemporaries) live largely on milk and blood. They are sturdy, healthy, tall, and smart. (I'm told by someone who lives near the Masai that they look down their noses at everybody, for good reason!) They are not buying processed, pasteurized milk or even testing their milk or collection processes! How can that be?
The Masai have a life expectancy in the mid to late 40s. Not exactly the poster child of health. A lot of kids die in these cultures that have not yet fully embraced modern medical and health practices. That said they also drink fresh raw milk from one cow. They do not mix the contents of several or tens of cows, bottle, and in some states ship the contents.

Second, please bear with me as I relate a comment from a judge I met in Ohio. Over dinner conversation about law and regulation, he told me that the worst laws are the ones with names attached,[...]
A bit of a tangent but in general I agree. Yes these laws take the thinking out of the legal system (what little there is). But we Americans constantly confuse our legal system for a justice system, which it is not.

Last, regarding Ken's comment that raw milk is the perfect medium for infectious agents [to grow and multiply], I am compelled to say this: Milk, in its raw state, is loaded with friendly bacteria that actually destroy pathogens. You can inoculate raw milk with a pathogen, and see that pathogen neutralized by friendly resident microbes. Inoculate pasteurized milk, and you get no inherent protection.
I have yet to read anything in my research about these good bacteria. Can you direct me to where I should read up about them? Do you know their name or how they function? I'm wondering if they attack the bad bacteria or if they out compete the bad bacteria. I guess in general a citation for the inoculation experiment you describe above would also be in order.

No matter, I suppose, since pasteurization is such an effective pathogen-killer. But where then, do the presumed 2/3 of pasteurized milk illnesses come from? The answer of course, is the same for pasteurized milk as it is for raw milk: Individual consumer factors aside (like immune strength), it's about the processing.
Pasteurization does not completely destroy all pathogens (or other beneficial bacteria) but merely knocks back the numbers to a large degree (kills off many e-folds) Thus that the 99.9% to 99.999% of milk that is pasteurized could still contain and sustain dangerous bacteria is a probability.

I want to remind raw milk proponents that I am not saying they are wrong. I am finding new information as I read everyday that shows raw milk to have wonderful , healthful properties many of which are knocked-back or lost in pasteurization. The question is whether the risk is worth the benefit. Whether some of the benefits could be found in other, safer foods or be retained in raw milk with newer processing methods. I realize that part of the appeal of raw milk is that it is a living system and that consuming it is like drinking in life and health. I also realize that pasteurization knocks-out a lot of that life turning milk into a largely dead liquid. The question is once again what, if any benefit is there in raw milk that is unique (i.e. cannot be found in other, safer foods) and is it worth the risk? I'm still trying to figure that one out.


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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Raw Milk - Waiting

  • Raw milk contains compounds that fight infectious agents.
  • There is also a class of compounds that seem to promote positive immunity response.
  • The benefit to humans is not established.
  • One should avoid using one study to draw broad conclusions.
  • There is not enough information to make a proper risk analysis

The objective of this investigation is to research the findings of the power point presentation (PPT) of Dexter and Fallon with the ultimate goal of deciding on the scientific validity of health claims of raw milk. This article will look at the first few slides of the PPT.

While waiting for the delivery of the book The Untold Story of Milk from Amazon, I have decided to look at what information I can from the web sites recommended in the thread of at The Complete Patient web blog post entitled "The Nuances of Educating People About Raw Milk and Other Real Foods". In visiting the web site for the Weston A. Price Foundation I found the following PPT and will start to look into the claims it makes. As I have said before, I do not take the Weston A. Price Foundation as a non-biased source. Though some have questioned how anyone might benefit from advocating or misleading a concept that is not financially profitable, human nature being what it is there are many reasons why someone might take up advocacy for an idea or belief that does not pan out "in reality".

My intention with respect to the PPT is to go over, slide by slide, the claims and details. I am not a health professional (a bonus point no doubt among many...) so please feel free to correct me or direct me to areas you think I either missed or did not cover adequately. My goal is two fold. To find out details about the science or pseudo-science of raw milk claims and to show respect for people. Showing respect for people of course is a two way street so please let's try to avoid what happens so often on net.

We are told:
  • Consider the calf, born in the muck, which then suckles on its mother’s manure-covered teat. How can that calf survive?
  • Because raw milk contains multiple, redundant systems of bioactive components that can reduce or eliminate populations of pathogenic bacteria.
This is followed by the next slide:

  • Built-In Protective Systems in Raw Milk Lactoperoxidase

  • Uses small amounts of H2O2 and free radicals to seek out and destroy bad bacteria
  • In all mammalian secretions—breast milk, tears, etc.
  • Lactoperoxidase levels 10 times higher in goat milk than in breast milk
  • Other countries are looking into using lactoperoxidase instead to pasteurization to ensure safety of commercial milk

British Journal of Nutrition (2000), 84, Suppl. 1. S19-S25.
Indian Journal Exp Biology Vol. 36, August 1998, pp 808-810. 1991
J Dairy Sci 74:783-787
Life Sciences, Vol 66, No 23, pp 2433-2439, 2000
An investigation into the sources is in order. I checked the more easily accessible (for me) ones The British Journal of Nutrition and Life Sciences (side note, the reference for Life Sciences had a typo, the issue number should read 25 not 23.) These references pan out and confirm that raw milk does indeed have bacteriological fighting chemicals. In fact these compounds are now actively being mined (from raw milk no less) for potential use in preserving other food products.

This research lead to further reading why I found this interesting article:


Biodefense Properties of Milk: The Role of Antimicrobial Proteins and Peptides

Authors: Clare, D.A.; Catignani, G.L.; Swaisgood, H.E.

Source: Current Pharmaceutical Design, Volume 9, Number 16, June 2003, pp. 1239-1255(17)

Publisher: Bentham Science Publishers


Mammary fluids, colostrum and milk, deliver nature's first host defense systems upon birth, and these essential liquids are critical for survival of the neonate. The identification and characterization of anti-infectious proteins were among the early scientific discoveries and this group of proteins has long been recognized for promoting health benefits in both newborns and adults. Among the more widely studied are the immunoglobulins, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, and lactoferrin. Recently, it was shown that agr-lactalbumin may also function in a protective capacity dependent upon its folding state. Some of these, especially lactoferrin, also display an immunomodulatory role in which case a totally separate cascade of host defense responses is initiated. It was noted that the mechanism of action for this cluster of sentry proteins does vary; thus, this protective strategy provides for a broad range of responsive reactions to infection. Presently, there is a major focus on the discovery of novel peptides that can be generated from existing milk proteins via proteolytic reactions. To date, this substrate list includes agr-lactalbumin, bgr-lactoglobulin, all casein fractions, and lactoferrin. Again, the immunoregulatory effects prompted as a result of the appearance of these peptides are currently being defined. Herein, we review the principal biological properties associated with each of these contributing milk components with a special emphasis on the role of biodefensive milk peptides. We envision future contributions emerging from this research field as an opportunity to develop effective new therapies to be used in treating infectious diseases and promoting health benefits in vivo.
This looks like a great deal of scientific gobbledygook no doubt, but in essence it not only affirms the findings stated in the PPT but also confirms statements made elsewhere that there is a potential immuno-benefit derived from some proteins that are "dependent upon its folding state" or tertiary structure. Such protein structures are easily lost when they are heated, such as when milk is pasteurized. The authors note, and we should too, that the exact immunoregulatory effects are not known. This is undergoing further research.

The findings form the papers mentioned above confirm the statements made in the first few slides of the PPT. The inference made by the PPT authors, Dexter and Fallon, that raw milk is thus fundamentally safe is given some credence. The problem for this understanding is that raw milk is traced to out brakes of illness so any understanding that raw milk is fundamentally safe needs to include an explanation for these out breaks. I will muse on some possibilities that might suggest areas that need further research. In addition the idea that some bacteria, which are useful or benign to the calf but potentially infectious to a human, exist is not addressed.

Many of the compounds mentioned in the articles referenced are peroxides, these compounds are known for their short lifetimes (they decompose readily) which is part of the basis of their effectiveness. This is not a surprise since milk, by its nature, is not meant to be stored at all. Thus pathogen out breaks linked to raw milk would suggest that many of the bacteriological fighting compounds in raw milk are short lived. The research question here is what is this period of time for a given bacteriological load? Other questions include does diet affect the production of these compounds and to what degree.

The other interesting finding is the possible immuno-benefit of some of these proteins. I must confess that due to time restrictions I am basing my discussion on the reading of the abstract rather than the article itself. I hope that by my next post (middle of next week) I will have read this article and have more to say. That said, questions that must be addressed at some point are, if these compounds provide immuno-benefit then why is the incidence of illness from raw milk so great? Is it an immediate, linear benefit or is it a benefit that is acquired over time? Do these compounds provide any benefit at all? Are compounds beneficial to cows beneficial to humans at all?

There is evidence that raw milk contains compounds that fight infectious agents as stated in the PPT of Dexter and Fallon. Such agents are sensitive to heating and thus are likely to be largely lost in the pasteurization process. It is unknown if these compounds have beneficial health impacts on the human body. There is also a class of compounds that seem to promote positive immunity response. To what degree, over what time frame, and if beneficial to humans is not known. Once again, the tertiary structure of these proteins is sensitive to heating and thus would be expected to degrade with pasteurization.

As with any health study one should use caution in applying one study too broadly. The human body is complex as is the interaction of the cow with her environment. Further research is needed as stated above to provide a better understanding of how these compounds work, what benefit they might have, and why raw milk is linked to higher incidence of illness. Such information is needed to make a proper risk analysis with respect to raw milk consumption.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Raw Milk - The Investigation Starts

My wife has started to consider buying raw milk from a local dairy and of course the first thing I felt was concern. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized so that any pathogen that might make it into the milk then makes it on into the consumer of the milk. So why go for raw milk then? Well there is a movement of people who believe that pasteurization destroys the beneficial aspects of milk and even can make people ill. This effort over the next few weeks will be to investigate from as scientifically sound a direction as possible the reality of the raw milk "debate" for lack of a better term. The goal is to lead to a decision as to whether I will support bringing raw milk into the family menu or not.

Looking at what governments and mainstream researchers have to say, there is no issue. Raw milk is dangerous. But as a scientist myself and with the knowledge that there is a lot to the universe that we do not understand I will try to approach the subject with as open a mind as I can. But what bias I carry will favor caution against raw milk.

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Friday, March 2, 2007

Asthma & the Elite Athlete

In an interesting article that was recently published in the scientific journal Sports Medicine entitled "Do Inhaled [beta]2-Agonists have an Ergogenic Potential in Non-Asthmatic Competitive Athletes?" I learned a few interesting tidbits.

  • Asthma is more common among elite athletes than the general population
  • Asthma is more common among endurance athletes (like long distance runners) and swimmers
  • Asthma is more common among those who participate in winter sports (I guess the intersection of this and the previous point would be long distance cross country skiers).

The point of the article was to show that the ban on a certain inhaled drug, [beta]2-agonists, was not needed due to there being no physical enhancement (ergogenic effect) on performance, even at super high dose. But an interesting side point is made that I'm not sure needed to be made, that:

  • oral administration of salbutamol seems to be able to improve the muscle strength and the endurance performance

I'm not sure it needed to be made because this method of administering this drug, orally, is already banned. But it might lead to some competitive virtually elite athletes* (Boulder is full of them) to consider using this substance.
clipped from

The prevalence of asthma is higher in elite athletes than in the general population. The risk of developing asthmatic symptoms is the highest in endurance athletes and swimmers. Asthma seems particularly widespread in winter-sport athletes such as cross-country skiers. Asthmatic athletes commonly use inhaled [beta]2-agonists to prevent and treat asthmatic symptoms. However, [beta]2-agonists are prohibited according to the Prohibited List of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
In three of four studies, even supratherapeutic doses of salbutamol (800-1200[mu]g) had no ergogenic effect. In contrast to inhaled [beta]2-agonists, oral administration of salbutamol seems to be able to improve the muscle strength and the endurance performance. There appears to be no justification to prohibit inhaled [beta]2-agonists from the point of view of the ergogenic effects.

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* virtually elite athletes: athletes that are highly trained and in the top percentages of their field in sports or competitions that are not judged or regulated by international or national organizations.

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Saturday, February 3, 2007

Omega-3 Fats: The Right Ratio

There has been some interest of late in omega-3 fatty acids or, as some people know them by, fish oils. This is due to the interesting things that science has found about these oils.

First and foremost as almost anyone who has grown-up in the last 40 years knows, fat is bad for you and should be avoided at all cost. WRONG!

Not only are some fats good for you but some are essential. That's right, like some vitamins, minerals, and amino acids (proteins) some fats are needed by our body yet cannot be produced by our body thus they must come from our diet making them "essential". This fact alone should radically alter the view most people have of fats.

Some Fats Are Essential

Fat is used by the body in many ways. The way that most people think of is as a means to store energy. This is why you gain fat when you eat more calories than you burn. Your body converts those extra calories into fat because fat is a highly efficient means of storage (more calories stored per gram).

But fat is also used in the construction of cells, their walls and interiors. The brain itself is largely constructed with fat. Fat is also used as a means to communicate between cells where the types of fat exchanged can play a role in how those cells behave. This point, though seemingly innocuous, can have serious health consequences. If your cells, say pancreas cells, get the wrong information on how to behave (due to exchange of the wrong kind of fat, maybe due to dietary restriction of essential fats) this could eventually lead to health problems.

The essential fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, are also known as omega fats. There are also omega-9 fatty acids but they are not essential in that our bodies have the enzymes to produce these as needed. The term omega is used to distinguish the naming system (nomenclature) used to identify the carbon at which the first double-bond (unsaturation) is encountered (see figure). The need for the term is an artifact of the different carbon counting systems used by chemists and physiologists. With regards to diet and the body the physiological nomenclature makes sense since the body interacts with these molecules from the omega end of the molecule.

Chemical structure of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, (18:3Δ9c,12c,15c). Although chemists count from the carbonyl carbon (blue numbering), physiologists count from the omega (ω) carbon (red numbering). Note that from the omega end (diagram right), the first double bond appears as the third carbon-carbon bond (line segment), hence the name "omega-3"
Chemical structure of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid, (18:3Δ9c,12c,15c).
Although chemists count from the carbonyl carbon (blue numbering), physiologists count from the omega (ω) carbon

Get the Right Ratio
In recent decades research on the two essential fats has begun to focus not only on the absolute quantity (how much) of the two fats consumed but also on the relative ratio (amounts of one relative to the other) of the two fats consumed. Using modern hunter-gatherer diets as aguide researchers have come to the conclusion that our ancestral diet, our paleo-diet, had a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids of about 1:1 or one omega-3 for each omega-6 consumed. Iin our modern diet this ratio has changed drastically. We now consume ratios of 1:10 with one study giving a 1:20 ratio between the two fats. The higher ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is implicated in increased risk to heart disease as well as other inflammation diseases (Crohn's disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as others) though the exact mechanism by which this ratio difference can impact the body is not yet fully realized. The impact that the ratio of the two fats has on the body is basically at the cutting edge of research. The take home message from that last sentence is, with regard to our understanding of diet, health, and the body, ideas derived from "cutting edge research" often change dramatically, as most anyone who follows such research is painfully aware.

In addition to the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s there is also research looking into the impact of the three different types of omega-3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You can read more about the three different types in a previous post.

Avoid the Bad Fats
Now there is a lot of information here to keep track of. To add to that it should be remembered that saturated fats (solids at room temperature) such as butter and animal fats are still to be minimized and avoided as should hydrogenated fats found in margarine, many prepared foods, and most off the shelf snack foods. The hydrogenation process destroys the double bonds (adds hydrogens) which preferentially destroy the omega-3 bonds over the omega-6 bonds thus increasing the ratio. Though I am skeptical of the "worst fat" moniker that trans-fats have been given they are at best as bad as saturated fats and thus should be eliminated.

Before changing your diet consult a physician and if you change your diet, consult your body. Listen to what it is telling you and adjust your diet to your body's needs. These needs will likely change over the course of a dietary change (and as you age) so make sure to keep listening.
  • Eat more vegetables (higher in omega-3s) the fresher the better.
  • Increase your consumption of good fats by replacing corn oil with canola oil or flax oil (don't fry with flax oil but baking is OK). You can also replace oil in recipes with flax meal in a 3:1 flax meal:oil ratio (you might need to adjust fluids but I have yet to do so.)
  • Do not get all your omega-3s from flax or other vegetable sources since this omega-3 (ALA) is not converted into "brain" omega-3 (DHA) by the body.
  • Eat more cold water fish, the lower on the food chain the better (due to bio-magnification process where heavy metals and PCBs are increasingly concentrated as you move up the food chain) this means more sardines but since eating sardines everyday really isn't tenable include salmon and other upper food chain fish in limited amounts (~ 1 or 2 servings a week).
  • Use fish oil supplements. Make sure they are purified to remove heavy metals and that they are third party certified.
  • Fish stocks globally are being harvested unsustainably. Please consider that you can now get DHA derived from algae from this site (note: I am not invested nor do I receive proceeds from this company. Full disclosure is that I plan to invest in this company in the future.)
  • Avoid saturated fats, processed foods (they contain hydrogenated fats to increase shelf life), and other hydrogenated fats.
  • Replace conventional dariy products with organics, there is some suggestion that organics have a higher ratio omega-3 to omega-6.
  • Eat grass fed meat products if you eat meat since these are higher in omega-3s.

Remember, a healthy diet includes fat, within limits, and that getting the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s right as well as the right mix of the three types of omega-3s is important. Once again, a balanced diet is called for. For more information of the food sources of omega-3 follow this link.

Lastly, this isn't a lecture, this is a co-operative joint venture. I am very willing to tap into the collective knowledge-base that is the readership. The human body is a super complex mechanism so please, if you've read conflicting information or know of the latest research email me or add a comment.

DISCLAIMER: The information and advice contained in this article are intended as a general guide to healthy eating and are not specific to individuals or their particular circumstances. All content within this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Good Fat: Omega-3s and Your Health


The three different types

ALA (sometimes LNA): alpha-linolenic acid
EPA:                         eicosapentaenoic acid
DHA:                        docosahexaenoic acid
Omega-3 fatty acids which are important in human nutrition are: alpha-linolenic acid (18:3, ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5, EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6, DHA). These three polyunsaturates have either 3, 5 or 6 double bonds in a carbon chain of 18, 20 or 22 carbon atoms, respectively. All double bonds are in the cis-configuration, i.e. the two hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the double bond.

What are the general findings?

  • Natural (human evolution) diet ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids (omega3:omega6) was about 1:1 but present American diet is around 1:20 [4,5]

A diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids (such as the LNA from flax oil or the EPA and DHA from fish oils) not only provides the body with healthy fats, but it also lowers the blood level of potentially harmful ones, such as cholesterol and, possibly, even reversing the effects of excess trans fatty acids.

DHA is the primary structural component of brain tissue, so it stands to reason that a deficiency of DHA in the diet could translate into a deficiency in brain function. In fact, research is increasingly recognizing the possibility that DHA has a crucial influence on neurotransmitters in the brain, helping brain cells better communicate with each other. Asian cultures have long appreciated the brain-building effects of DHA. In Japan, DHA is considered such an important "health food" that it is used as a nutritional supplement to enrich some foods, and students frequently take DHA pills before examinations.

Journal article

  • Men are more efficient at converting ingested fat to energy than women [2,3].  For men ALA conversion was 33% versus 22% for women.
  • The conversion of ALA to EPA is strongly linear (what percent?) Thus increased consumption of ALA should lead to an equally large increase in the amount of EPA in the blood.
  • There is no relationship to the consumption of ALA and the blood levels of DHA.  Thus ALA consumption should not substitute for the consumption of DHA.  Unfortunately DHA is found widely in resources that are being harvested unsustainably.

Conversion percent
  • Role of gender in conversion
The article Compartmental modeling to quantify alpha-linolenic acid conversion after longer term intake of multiple tracer boluses says that the body incorporates about 7% of the ALA consumed and converts about 1% of that into DHA (eventually).  (That's 0.07% of ALA consumed becomes DHA - 1000mg ALA = 70mg of DHA for the body. Compare that to the amount (minimum ~150mg) in one DHA enriched egg.)  This conflicts with the previously mentioned study which found no conversion.  This study uses isotopic methods of investigation that the previous study mentioned as having some problems.  None-the-less neither study shows substantial conversion of ALA into DHA.

Health benefits of ala, epa, and dha
Omega-3s and
Colon cancer

CiteULike link

[1] G.C. Burd, Metabolism of α-linolenic acid in humans  Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids Volume 75, Issue 3 , September 2006, Pages 161-168
[2] A.E. Jones, J.L. Murphy, M. Stolinski and S.A. Wootton, The effect of age and gender on the metabolic disposal of 1-13C palmitic acid, Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 52 (1998), pp. 22–28. Abstract-EMBASE | Abstract-MEDLINE   | Abstract + References in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

[3] A.E. Jones, M. Stolinski, R.D. Smith, R.J.L. Murphy and S.A. Wootton, Effect of fatty acid chain length and saturation on the gastrointestinal handling and metabolic disposal of dietary fatty acids in women, Br. J. Nutr. 81 (1999), pp. 37–43. Abstract-MEDLINE | Abstract-EMBASE   | Abstract + References in Scopus | Cited By in Scopus

[4] Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development

Am J Clin Nutr, Vol. 54, No. 3. (1 September 1991), pp. 438-463.
by Simopoulos A
[5] Human requirement for N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Poult Sci, Vol. 79, No. 7. (July 2000), pp. 961-970.
by Simopoulos AP


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