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Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 23:52 GMT 00:52 UK
Milk could be a super-medicine
Milk may be able to fight cancer
Scientists are testing the theory that drinking milk can help the body fight viral infections and diseases including cancer.

There is growing evidence that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat found in cow's milk, can improve the immune system.

We want to find out what happens to the immune system

Dr Philip Calder
In the first trial of its kind on humans, scientists at the Universities of Southampton and Reading are investigating whether CLA can help the body to fight off bacterial infection, and even reduce the growth of tumours.

Previous research in the United States on rats and mice has revealed that this form of fat does have immune enhancing and anti-cancer properties.

If the health benefits of CLA are proven it could lead to the development of a new range of milk, butter and cheese products marketed as a way to reduce the risk of contracting cancer as part of a healthy diet.


Project leader Dr Philip Calder, of the University of Southampton, said: "We want to find out what happens to the immune system if we give people an increased amount of CLA in their diet.

"One of the reasons CLA might protect against cancer is it improves the ability of the immune system to seek out and destroy tumours.

"We will be testing out two different forms of CLA, which we believe are the most important, giving people three increasing doses over a six-month period to find the type and dose that produces health benefits."

During the three-year trial scientists will also work with the dairy industry on modifying feeding practices to produce cow's milk with the right form and level of CLA.

There have already been studies showing that the best way to increase overall CLA content is to feed cows fresh grass.

The 'super milk' could also have other health benefits.

Research suggests that CLA can decrease the amount of fat in the blood the amount stored in the body.

These effects could help in the fight against two other major killers, heart disease and obesity.

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