DAVIS, Calif. — Identifying all the essential nutrients for humans is one of the greatest successes for understanding nutrition.
“Chemistry is a science that takes things apart and understands them as individual components,” said Bruce German, professor at University of California-Davis and director of the Foods for Health Institute. “This has been a spectacularly successful science that has changed the world by studying complicated elements as individual molecules.”
For nutrition, German said during a webinar organized by Hoard’s Dairyman, chemists took food apart and identified the essential nutrients.
“We know now every vitamin and mineral that humans need to grow and reproduce,” German said.
“As we understood all the essential nutrients, we eradicated the essential nutrient diseases so young people today don’t even know what rickets look like,” he said. “That was the golden age of dairy because it was appreciated that milk contained all the essential nutrients in the appropriate amounts.”
The bad news, German said, is that many scientists switched to studying diseases.
“For most of the last 50 years, science has been directed towards diseases and what drugs might cure them,” he said. “Heart disease takes a long time to develop, so scientists didn’t look for the disease. They looked at biomarkers for future disease.”
Cholesterol in blood is a good biomarker for genetic disposition to heart disease, German said.
“But it’s not a very good biomarker for risk due to diet,” German said.
“We decided there needed to be a different way to look at diet, so about 20 years ago we began to take a different approach to diet health by not looking at diseases, but looking at health and what to eat to protect ourselves from diseases developing,” he said.
A consortium of scientists from around the world have been studying babies and the nourishment provided to them by breast milk.
“When a baby is born, the mother transfers her bacteria to her infant, which allows the establishment of the appropriate bacterial colony and then the mother’s milk feeds those bacteria,” German said. “But modern medicine has interrupted this bacteria transfer.”
The bacteria in people, German said, is vitally important for health.
“The population of bacteria varies with the bacteria we’re exposed to and the foods we eat,” he said. “By understanding the mechanism by which milk works, we can understand how diet can work for everyone.”
Bacteria in people is very important, German said.
“We’ve been gradually stripping out good bacteria and replacing it by less beneficial bacteria,” he said. “We’re going to have to put good bacteria back into people. We’re going to have to feed the bacteria and one way to do that is with milk.”
Milk is self digesting, German said.
“The enzymes in milk attack the proteins and digest them into specific peptide fragments,” he said.
Proteins are difficult for the…