Dietary compounds found in milk-based products lowered cholesterol levels and triglycerides in mice, according to a new study in the Journal of Dairy Science. These compounds also protected against acute pulmonary thromboembolism as well as aspirin, without any of the negative side effects.

"Cardiovascular risk is recognized as one of most important metabolic diseases in Korea. Unfortunately, health-promoting effects of animal foods, including milk, are questioned by a number of consumers," Dr. Younghoon Kim and Dr. Nam Su Oh, authors of the study, told ALN.

The researchers, from the R&D Center, Seoul Dairy Cooperative, the College of Life Science & Biotechnology, Korea University, and the BK21 Plus Graduate program, Department of Animal Science and Institute Agricultural Science & Technology, Chonbuk National Unviersity in South Korea, used the Maillard effect to study the effects of milk protein. A chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that results in the formation of new chemical compounds, the Maillard effect is sometimes used to create new flavors, like in seared steaks. The new study shows that it can also protect us against cardiovascular disease.

During the study, 60 mice were divided into four groups of 15. One group, the negative control, received phosphate buffered saline (PBS). A second group, the positive control, received aspirin. A third group received whey-protein Maillard reaction products (wMRP) formed from whey protein concentrate and sodium caseinate was heated with lactose, and the fourth group received f-MRP, which is wMRP fermented with lactic acid bacteria.

The researchers also assessed antioxidant activity and cholesterol reduction effect of fermented cMRP with another group of mice. cMRP is when sodium caseinate reacts wtih Maillard reaction products.

The researchers found that the mice on cMRP diets showed lowered cholesteral and triglyceride levels.

"The findings in this study are important, as the effects of milk proteins and their fermented products suggest that the cholesterol-lowering mechanisms of milk protein peptides are related to the regulation of cholesterol synthesis and metabolism associated with gene expression. Therefore, the potent ability of dietary MRPs and fermented MRPs to reduce cholesterol levels and cell damage suggests that they might be of preventive and therapeutic benefit to humans with cardiovascular disease," Dr. Younghoon and Dr. Nam concluded.