Public Release: 

WSU/UI team to lead national milk conference

USDA grant funds look at bovine, human milk composition

Washington State University

PULLMAN, Wash. - A team of researchers from Washington State University and the University of Idaho has received a $50,000 grant from the USDA Agriculture and 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, 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 UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and director of the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station.

The conference will address the factors regulating the bioactive components in bovine and human milk. By understanding how these factors are regulated, researchers will be able to improve concentrations in milk, which will ultimately 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 WSU 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, WSU alumnus and national program leader for Human Nutrition at USDA-ARS in Maryland.

"This project exemplifies the benefits of interdisciplinary research," said Janet E. Nelson, U of I vice president for Research and Economic Development. "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.

"Through this partnership between WSU and U of I, we will build the foundation for this research to have a broad societal impact on human health and agricultural practices," said Chris Keane, WSU vice president for Research.


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