Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Milk Casein, Amyloid, Pasteurization, Homogenization

Milk is a very special food for mammalian babies. It provides essential nutrients; stimulates development of the gut; promotes the growth of the unique neonate gut flora; and kills everything else. Milk is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It is used in fruit orchards as a pruning tool dip to prevent the spread of disease between trees, and it is used as a foot dip after ceremonial walking on hot coals. But is cow's milk healthy for adult humans and is milk compromised by pasteurization and homogenization?

Mother's Milk is Fierce
Milk as it is transferred from breast to baby is loaded with molecular weapons for the protection of the baby's respiratory and digestive systems. Cells from the mother are transferred along with the milk and quickly spread out on the surface of the mouth and digestive system to patrol for pathogens. The mother's immune system detects potential risks as the baby's mouth contacts the mother's lymphatic system at the breast, and the antibodies that are subsequently produced are transferred into the milk. Enzymes in the milk digest bacterial cell walls and other milk proteins are converted into anti-bacterial peptides in the baby's stomach before ultimately being digested into amino acid nutrients. Many of the fat/lipid nutrients in milk are also anti-bacterial or anti-viral. Most of the carbohydrate in milk is the simple disaccharide lactose that most bacteria can't use for food. The remaining 10% of the carbohydrates are extensions of the lactose to make galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS, a.k.a. bifidus factor) that are toxic to all but the few bacterial species that make up the highly specialized microbial community of the human baby gut flora. (Cow's milk has an entirely different composition, e.g. lacks bifidus factor, and supports a different gut flora.)

Milk is Liquid Fat
It is hard to transport fat in water, because it isn't soluble. That is true for blood or milk. We have all heard about good and bad cholesterol, LDL and HDL, and the problems of transporting blood lipids from gut to liver to tissues. Specialized carrier proteins are needed for lipid transport in blood and the same is true for milk. Caseins are the milk proteins that coat droplets of fats that make milk white and then form digestible curds in response to the baby's stomach acid and digestive enzymes. We exploit the natural curd forming response of milk proteins and lipid droplets to form yogurts and cheeses.

Pasteurization and Homogenization Put Milk in the Dairy Case
Milk behaves optimally when immediately transferred from the mother's mammary tissue to the baby's digestive tract. Bacteria that contaminate breast milk are quickly killed by cellular and molecular defenses of the milk itself. Thus, breast milk has a long storage life at room temperature, chilled or frozen. The natural defenses of milk also permit regional milk banks, where donated milk is minimally processed and screened, for subsequent use by hospitals to avoid problems, such as necrotizing colitis, associated with the use of artificial feeding substitutes. Commercial preservation of cow's milk in stores has resulted in attempts to extend the shelf-life by heat treatment (pasteurization) to provide additional protection from microbial contamination and homogenization to prevent curd formation.

Milk is for Babies
So why isn't milk the perfect food? Part of the reason may come from the highly specialized and essential role of milk for mammals like people. Millions of years of extreme selection pressure have made sure that every woman produces ample milk for all of her babies. Until very recently, if the baby could not successfully nurse, it would die. That made breast milk the perfect food for babies and milk was integral to the development of the baby gut, baby gut flora and baby immune system. But that didn't mean that cow's milk would be a healthy commercial food for human adults.

Milk Processing May Accentuate Casein Amyloid Fiber Formation
Proteins are made of a long sequence of a thousand amino acids. At each of those thousand positions there is one of twenty different amino acids. Some of the amino acids are hydrophilic and bind to water, whereas other amino acids are hydrophobic and bind only to lipids. Proteins in water fold and unfold in thousands of alternative configurations until the final shape is reached in which there is not enough energy in the molecular vibrations and movements of the water molecules to knock the protein into an alternative shape.

Heating/pasteurization and torturous mixing/homogenization can force milk casein and fats into new configurations that make the proteins stackable into fibers/amyloids. These milk protein fibers may be of interest, because protein fibers are important in many diseases, e.g. type I diabetes, Alzheimer's disease. The problem with amyloids, is that these fibers form a natural repetition of the same amino acid on each of the stacked proteins. This repetitive amino acid, e.g. positively charged lysine or arginine, can provide a binding site for a similarly spaced, oppositely charged molecule, such as heparin, which is involved in dragging molecules from the surface into cells. Beta amyloid fibers with positively charged amino acids in a band along their edges are what kills nerve cells in Alzheimer's disease.

Research has recently demonstrated that milk casein forms amyloid fibers in response to pasteurization and homogenization. It would be interesting to know if these fibers bind to heparin and if these fibers are toxic to intestinal cells.

I have raw cream from grass fed cows in my morning coffee and my three daughters never tasted formula.


Stipetic said...

I've always wondered if the heat in one's scalding cup of hot java causes the same kind of denaturing of the milk/cream proteins as pasteurization?

Adam said...

Dr. Ayers,

Constantly reading yr post and comments, already learned tons about "things". Recommend yr site to whoever I can.

Sorry for the "not topic linked" question but if possible I 'd like to know your thoughts on millet.


Nina K. said...

Hiya Doc,

what do you think of Ricotta cheese (made of whey?). I occassionally eat that sometimes, organic of course. I tolerate heavy cream and butter very well, but not heavy casein containing cheese, yoghurt etc. My skin reacts with pimples ;-).

Do you think it's a huge difference for the gut to digest whey vs. casein?

Sarah said...

I love your highly scientific plug for breastfeeding.

In my earlier mothering days, I breastfed, but my first two babies had formula once a day or so until they weaned at 9 months. My 3rd nursed for 15 months and never tasted formula. My 4th nursed for 21 months and never tasted formula.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"These milk protein fibers may be of interest, because protein fibers are important in many diseases, e.g. type I diabetes, Alzheimer's disease."

Am I right in taking this as rather strong advise against eating (homogenized/pasteurized) dairy, even if organic and - my preference - from sheep? This won't turn out to be a story similar to cholesterol in eggs?


Anonymous said...

Great article as always!

Wondering about the same thing as the ist reply here. Will eating fermented milk and other dairy products make a difference? And what about butter?

Nigel Kinbrum said...


I would hope that all of the proteins in milk are broken down by pepsin, trypsin & chymotrypsin into amino acids or chains of 2/3 amino acids, which are small enough to pass through the tight junctions in the gut wall and that longer chains of amino acids are too large to pass through.

I believe that insufficiently tight junctions (which let through excessively long chains of amino acids) are the problem, rather than the proteins that we are eating.

Hypovitaminosis D & excessive intake of linoleic acid are two factors that I know of that can loosen tight junctions (also zonula occludens toxin secreted by cholera pathogen Vibrio cholerae). Are you aware of any others?

Cheers, Nige

Anonymous said...

no cheese?
if casein is an issue in milk itself (from cows) then what makes eating cheese or protein side of milk in general healthy? nothing?

oh dear... there goes the cheese!

Anonymous said...


Isn't heat used to make all cheese? even raw cheese? i'mnot familiar with the process too intimately. just curious.


Anonymous said...

Dr Ayers does yogurt from raw milk also have stackable proteins? harmful?


psychic24 said...

Dr. Ayers,

I apologize if this is the incorrect avenue to approach you on, but I can't find anywhere else to leave this comment. I recently came upon your comment regarding the inadequacy of betaine-hcl as a means of acidifying stomach acid. It was always my understanding that hcl combined with water to form hydronium and chloride, or hydrochloric acid, which is known to be a strong acid; this is why i take my betaine-hcl capsule with a sip of water. But if this is indeed incorrect, do you have any suggestions for acidifying stomach acid. Thanks again for your time, Dr. Ayers.

Anonymous said...


i think homemade yogurt could be good even from pasteurized milk, but im not sure. Let Dr. AA shed some light on it.

I also think butter would be fine, it barely has any protein in it, if at all.

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to vent a bit -- this is not directed at any particular commenter:

Let's not get too hung up on the Palaeo community's faulty-logic driven ideology. In other words, if a food doesn't cause you any noticeable health issues, then don't stress over it . . . consume it in moderation. Breathing will kill you to a greater extent than pasteurized, homogenized yogurt. We are not biologically adapted to anything that would not prevent us from living long enough to produce children. For some females, this could be as young as nine! Keep these things in mind when you start following the Palaeo party line.

Anonymous said...


i agree there needs to be more broadmindedness esp when paleo is in question.

this is not just limited to producing children but ensuring overall quality of life for the longrun, so the hyper focus on allergic/problem foods.

Anonymous said...

doc good science but science changes every other day. my interest is what you are consuming and if it is keeping you healthy.

i think you consume all dairy products with the exception of milk. so whats up with the scare mongering?


Dr. Art Ayers said...

Hi Nige,
Why must I be so clear in my writing?

I spend much of my time responding to general perceptions that seem unrelated to the real world. Among those are that natural is safe or plants are designed for eating or that bacteria spontaneously occur in your gut if you eat.

We (the cells lining our gut) compete with bacteria in our gut for the food that we eat. The result is that our gut enzymes produce only fragments/oligomers from eaten food molecules, proteins, carbs/polysaccharides. The oligomers are not digestible by bacteria, but are converted to monomers by gut enzymes adhering to the surface of intestinal cells. So transport proteins take up the proteins into the enterocytes and not much of anything gets through the intact junctions between intestinal cells.

One of my main points is that most of the interactions between the body and food/drugs/antiobiotics/supplements, occurs in the gut/gut flora. So that makes it hard for me to see confusion that some people have between milk amyloids and brain amyloids. The milk amyloids will never leave the gut and never interact with the brain or even the substantial nervous system of the gut.

I think about amyloids of any type as being produced locally, e.g. brain or pancreatic beta cells, and being toxic to cells by blocking the heparan sulfate proteoglycan recycling system.

I fear that milk amyloids may contribute to the breakdown of intestinal junctions in the same way that gluten does by manipulating zonulin, but the continual renewal of the intestinal lining yields such a robust system, that most milk products don't give symptoms.

I am just trying to explain why some people may have problems with milk, aside from gut flora-based intolerances. For most people, milk is no big deal and is a healthy source of saturated fats that I think are safer than polyunsaturated fats. So, if I had to make the choice among the typical breakfast components of coffe/cream, milk/cereal/sugar and toast/margarine, the order from most to least healthy would be coffee, cream, milk, toast, cereal, sugar, margarine. I would judge whole wheat to be less healthy. I would rather break my fast with either just coffee/cream or add an egg with salsa or sausage.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

About the paleo diet.

I don't find the paleo ideology compelling, but I think that the result is a diet that basically means eating on the outer ring of the supermarket, which is what the biomedical literature has been saying for the last half-century. Unfortunately, the science has been in conflict with the medical/agricultural industries that are based on authority.

Eating meat/fish/eggs and vegetables is healthy and not very controversial. Grains are problematical for most people. Eating from the food pyramid or USDA plate will give you chronic diseases and make you a good patient. The US has second rate health prevention and nutrition.

Healthcare economics are easily affordable, if we are willing to sacrifice medical and agricultural subsidies that come in the form of tainted eating advice.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

The HCl in betaine-HCl, just means that HCl was used to neutralize the betaine. There is no HCl in betaine-HCl. Using betaine as a supplement will buffer your stomach and have no impact other than perhaps lowering acidity. Betaine is very bizarre stuff, so it may incidentally increase the production of stomach acid, but I know nothing about that.

In most cases, stomach acidity is not the problem. Typically the problem is with gut bacteria.

Thanks for the question.

Anonymous said...

"I fear that milk amyloids may contribute to the breakdown of intestinal junctions in the same way that gluten does"

just eat some butter, that should fix the junctions, no need to fear at all!! :-)

interestingly eastern medicine suggests BOILING the milk to make it EASIER to digest!

i like to see modern science agreeing with the traditional medicine but where it doesn't i stick to the old is gold rule.

i beg your pardon if there some mistake in what i've written and would like it if you corrected it Dr. AA!


psychic24 said...

Dr. Ayers,

I'm still a bit confused about the betaine-hcl. Out of curiosity I went to find the chemical formula of the betaine-hcl salt and ended up finding this: (CH3)3N+CH2CO2- + HCl → [(CH3)3N+CH2CO2H]Cl-

This is where I find it fishy. Normally in a neutrilization reaction with a monoprotic acid you're supposed to get the base (betaine in this case) with a just an addition of the anion. The betaine-hcl molecule holds on to the H as well, though. This seems to suggest that it is an acid salt, which makes sense--just like ammonium chloride retains a slightly acidic character (when ammonia reacts with hcl). My chemistry is rusty so excuse me if i'm babbling, but I'd really like to get to the bottom of this... Thanks for your time, Dr. Ayers

Dr. Art Ayers said...

The confusion comes from the fact that betaine has two ionizable groups, like amino acids in water. The N, bonded to four carbons has a positive charge and the carboxylic acid loses its proton to have a negative charge. When HCl is added, the H+ reprotonates the carboxyl group and the Cl- forms an ionic bond with the positively charged quaternary amine to yield a salt.

There is no HCl in NaCl and no HCl in ammonium chloride and no HCl in betaine-HCl. All of those are salts.

Betaine-HCl cannot be claimed to increase stomach acid in over the counter medications, because there is no evidence to support the claim.

Thanks for the questions.

Steven J said...

Understood, so the dissociation of betaine-hcl will not form betaine and hcl. But when they do dissociate it will form a cl ion and the leftover positive of betaine and the hydrogen, which is an acidic anhydride. So there should be at least a modest increase in acidity. Is that correct or is that also off base?

Steven J said...

Sry, disregard the anhydride part. I was thinking of something else.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ayers

any disadvantage of getting 50% calories from saturated fat aka butter?

Tony Mach said...

Thank you for collecting this information on milk!

I recently concluded that my acne was caused by milk and milk products. Currently I am trying to narrow it down and found that Ghee (clarified butter, the fat fraction of milk) does not cause acne for me – but pasteurized milk and mature cheese (which should be almost lactose free) and milk-chocolate do cause my acne. Haven't yet tried cream and haven't tried raw milk, but will do.

El Librero said...

Dr. Ayers,
Would like to know your opinion on cooking temperature. It seems that Advanced Glycation End products are produced: AGE´s that also cause inflamation. See: Vlassara,Helen
And what about Heterocyclic amines when cooking meat, or fish or eggs?
El Librero

Anonymous said...

also what about the by products of proteolytic fermentation of so much protein?

Tina said...

With all of the processed foods we have today it's no wonder we have so many health problems--cancers, allergies, inflammation. Keeping food as natural and unprocessed as possible is the best way to go.

Thanks for the article!

Anonymous said...

Dr Ayers,

I am trying to understand and know how to treat my daughter's milk allergy. I did not know the harm in formula. She had a little formula in the hospital after she was born. However, I did breastfeed her with no formula until she was 2 and a half years old after that. When she was around 2 years she got very bad breath and at age 4 years she started to have facial tics. She is 7 now and still has facial tics but it seems that the trigger is milk. Is this a normal symptom to a milk allergy? Is the bad breath probably from a bad gut flora? She never had sinus infections or anything that would cause bad breath at such a young age. How is all of this related? Do you think she can heal from this? Now I am concerned for my son too. He is only 8 months old. We live in Eastern Europe now and it is standard in the hospitals here to give babies formula. They did not even bring him to me after he was born for about 6 hours. I had no choice. They fed him formula several times even though I was breast feeding him. Is there anything I can do to help him not have consequences?

organigal12 said...

Dr. Ayers -
I am new and SO interested in what you share. My 27 yo daughter is gluten intolerant, hashimotos, low thyroid, pcos, ebv+, exhausted, overweight, unhappy, acne and just plain miserable. I want to help her.
We are gluten free, grain and sugar and alcohol free. Organic veggies and fruits and free range only. She tested positive to allergies to soy, corn, beef, chicken and casein. We now do raw dairy. We supplement with greens, iodine, magnesium but the constipation is severe (over a week). How can I help her?
We have seen many medicals and have come up with NOTHING. They either take her OFF of synthroid or add she is on compounded and feeling AWFUL. Tired, foggy, painful finger joints...Please help???? Where do I start? She accepts the veggie juices and smoothies as meals...but we see NO improvement with all these changes for the past TWO years. Did I mention she has had NO health insurance for three years? Thank you for any suggestions. We will follow them (I do as support and I really miss pizza and wine :( )

Chuck said...

Thought you might like this...

Odile said...

Answers to a lot of the comments can be found in The Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, especially in what concerns feeding infants, curing the problems caused by formula, why ghee is ok but other dairy isn't (and which other dairy is ok too). The GAPS diet has helped thousands but is still relatively unknown. It is the result of scientific investigation, not abstract theory like the Paleo diet. Interestingly, it does concur with the Paleo diet in many ways.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I gotta tell you this. I chose to breastfeed my daughter and when she was about 3.5 months old we took a trip. The day we left, I cleaned out the fridge. We had a big bag of lettuce that was still mostly full and in deciding not to waste it I ate the whole bag of lettuce all at once. About two days into the trip, I changed my daughter's diaper and I swore it looked like actual lettuce leaves all chewed very well. There were parts that definately looked leaf-like. I am not kidding, it made me look twice. So later in that year, I am at a La Leche meeting and another mother noticed the same thing except she had quinoa not lettuce. Have you ever heard of that? I think it might have to do with the infant gut being under 6 months. At 3.5 months my daughter was only breastfeeding with no supplementation at all. It was my goal to get through without any formula.

Nice blog by the way.

Dr. Art Ayers said...

Lettuce in diaper

Exclusively breastfed babies can end up with green diapers, but it isn't from the mothers diet. If the mother shifts the baby too frequently from breast to breast while nursing, the baby just gets the first milk, high in carbs, and doesn't stay long enough on one breast to get the hind milk that is rich in fat. The big load of carbs changes the gut bacteria and produces green clumps. Switching breasts more frequently is common when nursing is disrupted by traveling.

This answer was easy for me, because my dear wife is a lactation consultant and La Leche leader with 25 years of experience.

Amarjeet Prasad said...

Nice info.
high pressure pasteurisation

Anonymous said...

In answer to the question by Anonymous whether raw milk cheese is damaged by heating.

Properly made raw milk cheese is heated to no more than about 103 degrees F, the temperature of milk as it leaves the cow. Therefor the delicate proteins and enzymes in milk are not damaged.

Raw milk cheese is therefor a very good substitute for raw milk for those unable to obtain raw milk due to government regulations. Raw milk cheese that has been aged a minimum of 60 days is the only raw milk product that, under federal regulations, can legally shipped across state lines because any pathogens present are destroyed by the low pH that occurs during fermentation.

There are literally hundreds of cheese-makers in the U.S. who make good raw milk cheese from pastured cows that are fed no grain.

There are some large companies that make "organic" dairy products including "raw milk cheese" that has been heated to just below pasteurization temperatures and therefor destroys or damages many of the beneficial proteins, vitamins, minerals and enzymes in the milk. For that reason I do not buy "raw milk cheese" from health food stores or supermarkets but buy directly from small cheese makers that I trust.

Puddleg said...

Lettuce in Diaper?

No way Mom, not without altering the structure of the known universe, BUT

FODMAPs in vegetables eaten by Mom CAN be passed on in milk and upset bub's digestion.

Anonymous said...

What you're saying about betaine HCl makes no sense. The USP monograph for betaine HCl reports an expected pH of no higher than 1.2, and here's a study showing it can drop gastric pH from 5 to less than 1

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr or Ms anonymous. Ayers is irrefutably wrong. Obviously the proton does not reprotinate with the carboxyl group.

Anonymous said...

"There is no HCl in NaCl and no HCl in ammonium chloride and no HCl in betaine-HCl. All of those are salts."

How can a microbiologist make such inaccurate statements?? Obviously there's no HCl in NaCl --there's no hydrogen in NaCl!! And of course ammonium chloride won't have HCl because it dissociates into ammonium and Cl, just like that's how they came together initially--there was never a HCl to begin with to make it. Meanwhile betaine had to come with HCl (not just Cl, like in the last example), so it should make sense that it will dissociate back into HCl. What is difficult about this??

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