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A fatty acid found in milk may help control inflammatory diseases

MADISON - 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, or CLA, prevents inflammatory damage resulting from immune response," says Mark Cook, a professor of animal science in UW-Madison's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "We've identified the biochemical mechanism by which this occurs."

CLA, which is synthesized by microbial fermentation in the rumen of dairy cows, exists naturally in a number of structural forms. Cook's team determined that one of the variants inhibits the COX-2 protein by blocking a key cellular pathway. The COX-2 protein is known to play a significant role in many inflammatory diseases and is an important drug target for treating arthritis and cancer, Cook says.

While the amount of the anti-inflammatory isomer of CLA in milk is small relative to other fatty acids in milk, there may still be enough to elicit an effect if someone consumes dairy products every day, says Cook. 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 CLA in milk can be increased by changing dairy cow diets.

A poultry scientist, Cook's interest in CLA arose when he began to investigate what seemed at first to be a simple question: Why does a chick or any other animal raised in a germ-free environment grow faster than one raised in a conventional environment?

"In animal agriculture, you can see as much as a five to ten percent difference in weight at a given age in a growing animal because a secondary effect of immune response is that it suppresses growth," Cook says. The immune system protects the body
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Contact: Mark Cook
mcook@wisc.edu
608-262-7747
University of Wisconsin-Madison
18-Oct-2005


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