, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 189-198

Polymorphism of bovine beta-casein and its potential effect on human health

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Abstract

Proteins in bovine milk are a common source of bioactive peptides. The peptides are released by the digestion of caseins and whey proteins. In vitro the bioactive peptide beta-casomorphin 7 (BCM-7) is yielded by the successive gastrointestinal proteolytic digestion of bovine beta-casein variants A1 and B, but this was not seen in variant A2. In hydrolysed milk with variant A1 of beta-casein, BCM-7 level is 4-fold higher than in A2 milk. Variants A1 and A2 of beta-casein are common among many dairy cattle breeds. A1 is the most frequent in Holstein-Friesian (0.310-0.660), Ayrshire (0.432-0.720) and Red (0.710) cattle. In contrast, a high frequency of A2 is observed in Guernsey (0.880-0.970) and Jersey (0.490-0.721) cattle. BCM-7 may play a role in the aetiology of human diseases. Epidemiological evidence from New Zealand claims that consumption of beta-casein A1 is associated with higher national mortality rates from ischaemic heart disease. It seems that the populations that consume milk containing high levels of beta-casein A2 have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 1 diabetes. BCM-7 has also been suggested as a possible cause of sudden infant death syndrome. In addition, neurological disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia, seem to be associated with milk consumption and a higher level of BCM-7. Therefore, careful attention should be paid to that protein polymorphism, and deeper research is needed to verify the range and natureof its interactions with the human gastrointestinal tract and whole organism.