Allergies: Cow's milk protein gives farm protection
For years there has been controversy as to whether milk is more harmful or beneficial to health. For example, there is evidence that cow's milk can promote inflammation. On the other hand, it provides vital nutrients such as calcium. And it can protect against allergies, as a study has now shown.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the incidence of allergic diseases has increased significantly in countries with a western lifestyle since the 1970s. According to the experts, more than 20 percent of children and more than 30 percent of adults will develop at least one allergic disease in their lifetime. According to a new study, to protect yourself from allergies, it may make sense to consume cow's milk at a young age.
Milk is full of important nutrients
Even if there are some indications that milk could harm health, many experts recommend regular cow's milk consumption. After all, it contains high-quality protein, easily digestible fat and carbohydrates in the form of milk sugar lactose that are easy for the body to use, explains the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE).
Of particular importance is the high content of the minerals calcium and phosphorus, the water-soluble vitamins of the B group (especially vitamin B2) and the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
A certain protein in cow's milk also has an impact on human health. According to a recent study from Austria, this can protect against allergies.
Key molecule for the so-called farm protection
As the Medical University (MedUni) Vienna writes in a communication, numerous studies prove that growing up on a farm and drinking unprocessed, natural cow's milk in the first years of life protects against the development of immunoglobulins E (IgE), which are important for allergic symptoms are responsible.
In a current study led by Franziska Roth-Walter and Erika Jensen-Jarolim from the Institute for Pathophysiology and Allergy Research at MedUni Vienna and from the inter-university Messerli Research Institute - a joint institution of Vetmeduni Vienna, MedUni Vienna and the University of Vienna - has now been shown that a protein secreted by cows, beta-lactoglobulin, which is also found in milk, is a key molecule for so-called farm protection against allergies.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI).
Rural environment trains the immune system
The rural environment trains the human immune system. According to the experts, children who play in the cowshed and drink unprocessed milk are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma. This effect is called farm protection.
In laboratory and animal model studies, the Austrian research team showed that beta-lactoglobulin, when carrying its natural ligands, such as plant pigments from green grass, prevents allergies. In contrast, the protein behaved like an allergen without its natural ligands.
“The anti-allergic properties of natural beta-lactoglobulin can be explained by the fact that this protein specifically brings its ligands to the immune defense cells and thus prevents inflammation. The natural ligands also prevent IgE antibodies from docking to beta-lactoglobulin protein, which should make them more tolerable by milk-allergic children, ”explains Roth-Walter.
New key molecule for the protective effect
With the cow protein beta-lactoglobulin, the study therefore presents a new molecule which, according to the experts, together with its natural ligands, is of interest for the farm protective effect against allergies.
However, circumstances that can lead to a loss or deficiency of these ligands, for example due to industrial milk processing or poor animal feed quality, can convert the well-tolerated milk protein beta-lactoglobulin into an allergen.
"Our study gives hope that the farm allergy protection effect can be made more practical and used to prevent the allergy epidemic," says Erika Jensen-Jarolim. (ad)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
- Medical University of Vienna: Farm protection: Cow's milk protein beta-lactoglobulin prevents allergies, (accessed: June 27, 2020), Medical University of Vienna
- Roth-Walter F, Afify SM, Pacios LF, Blokhuis BR, Redegeld F, Regner A, Petje LM, Fiocchi A, Untersmayr E, Dvorak Z, Hufnagl K, Pali-Schöll I, Jensen-Jarolim E .: Cow milk protein beta -lactoglobulin confers resilience against allergy by targeting complexed iron into immune cells; in: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, (published: 29.05.2020), Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
- Robert Koch Institute (RKI): Allergies and Atopic Diseases, (accessed: June 27, 2020), Robert Koch Institute (RKI)
- Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE): Milk: Drink healthy, (accessed: June 27, 2020), Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE)