, Volume 39, Issue 12, pp 1197–1206

Modifying milk fat composition of dairy cows to enhance fatty acids beneficial to human health


DOI: 10.1007/s11745-004-1348-6

Cite this article as:
Lock, A.L. & Bauman, D.E. Lipids (2004) 39: 1197. doi:10.1007/s11745-004-1348-6


There is increased consumer awareness that foods contain microcomponents that may have beneficial effects on health maintenance and disease prevention. In milk fat these functional food components include EPA, DHA, and CLA. The opportunity to enhance the content of these FA in milk has improved as a result of recent advances that have better defined the interrelationships between rumen fermentation, lipid metabolism, and milk fat synthesis. Dietary lipids undergo extensive hydrolysis and biohydrogenation in the rumen. Milk fat is predominantly TG, and de novo FA synthesis and the uptake of circulating FA contribute nearly equal amounts (molar basis) to the FA in milk fat. Transfer of dietary EPA and DHA to milk fat is very low (<4%); this is, to a large extent, related to their extensive biohydrogenation in the rumen, and also partly due to the fact that they are not transported in the plasma lipid fractions that serve as major mammary sources of FA uptake (TG and nonesterified FA). Milk contains over 20 isomers of CLA but the predominant one is cis-9,trans-11 (75–90% of total CLA). Biomedical studies with animal models have shown that this isomer has anticarcinogenic and anti-atherogenic activities. cis-9,trans-11-CLA is produced as an intermediate in the rumen biohydrogenation of linoleic acid but not of linolenic acid. However, it is only a transient intermediate, and the major source of milk fat CLA is from endogenous synthesis. Vaccenic acid, produced as a rumen biohydrogenation intermediate from both linoleic acid and linolenic acid, is the substrate, and Δ9-desaturase in the mammary gland and other tissues catalyzes the reaction. Diet can markedly affect milk fat CLA content, and there are also substantial differences among individual cows. Thus, strategies to enhance milk fat CLA involve increasing rumen outflow of vaccenic acid and increasing Δ9-desaturase activity, and through these, several-fold increases in the content of CLA in milk fat can be routinely achieved. Overall, concentrations of CLA, and to a lesser extent EPA and DHA, can be significantly enhanced through the use of diet formulation and nutritional management of dairy cows.



nonesterified fatty acid

Copyright information

© AOCS Press 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal ScienceCornell UniversityIthaca

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