Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Dairy Proteins Linked to Multiple Sclerosis

Milk and Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a devastating disease characterized by your immune system attacking the insulation of your own nerve cells, causing unpredictable short-circuiting within your nervous system, which commonly interferes with vision, speech and mobility.

But why would your immune system do such a thing? We know that other diseases of so-called immune "autoaggression" may be caused by something called "molecular mimicry," in which a foreign protein looks just like one of the body's own proteins. So then when the body makes antibodies against the foreign invader, it also unintentionally makes antibodies against some of the body's own proteins.

For example, there is a protein in bovine milk that looks like a protein in the human pancreas, and so human babies exposed to the milk of cows may try to fend off the foreign bovine protein and, in doing so, destroy their pancreas's ability to produce insulin, leading to type I diabetes.

Numerous population-based studies around the world have linked multiple sclerosis to dairy product consumption,[1-3] but cause and effect could never be proven. So a prestigious research team of German, Swedish, British and American scientists set out study bovine milk proteins and see if they could find any milk protein that cross-reacted with human nerve-sheath proteins. And for the first time ever, they found it.[4]

If a milk protein is causing or contributing to multiple sclerosis, why don't more people come down with the disease? Like all diseases, susceptibility has both a genetic and an environmental component. We don't know why in some people the bovine milk protein is able to sneak through the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system and potentially trigger an inflammatory response that ends with your own nerves as victims of collateral damage.

This research is still in the preliminary stage, and blaming dairy for multiple sclerosis remains speculative, but evidence is mounting that this disabling disease may just be yet another problem inherent to humans eating the bodies and body fluids of fellow mammals.

[1] Medical hypotheses 19(1986):169.
[2] Neuroepidemiology 11(1992):304.
[3] Annals of Neurology 49(1997):55.
[4] Journal of Immunology 172(2004):661.

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