Acid in milk may help control inflammatory diseases

by Keith Nunes
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MADISON, WIS. — One of the isomers of conjugated linoleic acid, a group of fatty acids found in milk, is a natural regulator of the COX-2 protein, which plays a significant role in inflammatory disease such as arthritis and cancer, according to a study published by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

"It’s clear from previous research that conjugated linoleic acid (C.L.A.) prevents inflammatory damage resulting from immune response," said Mark Cook, a professor of animal science in U.W.-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "We’ve identified the biochemical mechanism by which this occurs."

Conjugated linoleic acid, which is synthesized by microbial fermentation in the rumen of dairy cows, exists naturally in a number of structural forms. Mr. Cook’s team determined that one of the variants inhibits the COX-2 protein by blocking a key cellular pathway.

While the amount of the anti-inflammatory isomer of C.L.A. in milk is small relative to other fatty acids in milk, there may be enough to elicit an effect if someone consumes dairy products every day, Mr. Cook said. He is planning a study, in collaboration with researchers in the dairy science and food science departments, to determine whether the amount of anti-inflammatory C.L.A. in milk may be increased by changing dairy cow diets.

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