NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The US Dietary Guidelines for Americans have long urged consumers to consume dairy products, which are rich sources of myriad essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A. Dairy foods are also excellent sources of high-quality protein and several biologically-active compounds. In addition to helping prevent nutrient deficiencies, greater consumption of dairy products has been linked to lower risks of cardiovascular disease, age-related bone loss, and type 2 diabetes. As such, understanding bovine milk composition as well as variation, therein, is fundamental to both delineating the mechanisms whereby dairy foods improve health and customizing them so that they even better promote health. But what should be considered "optimal" in terms of bovine milk composition? And does this change over the lifespan and in certain health states? We posit that much can be learned in this regard from examining the composition of human milk, which unarguably is the only food evolutionarily designed to be consumed by humans - at least during early life. In addition, some argue that conventional agriculture and food manufacturing practices are not sustainable in terms of selected environmental concerns and result in dairy products with less-than-ideal nutrient composition. The overarching goal of this interactive conference is to identify knowledge gaps related to understanding milk composition and how variation, therein, might influence human health so that targeted, interdisciplinary research can be undertaken to most effectively fill these gaps and produce dairy products that optimally nourish humans while respecting sustainable agricultural practices.
OBJECTIVES: A workshop will be developed to address bovine milk composition, its variation and its relationship to consumer health. Factors such as genetics, environment, nutrition, animal husbandry and management may lead to alterations in milk composition that could be utilized to "design" milk to better suit the needs of humans. In addition, and in anticipation of a rigorous update of the USDA Food Composition Database to expand information on bovine milk and include (for the first time) human milk, this workshop will lay the groundwork for the collection of data needed. The overarching goals of the interactive workshop proposed here are to identify fundamental knowledge gaps related to (1) rigorous characterization of bovine milk composition and factors related to variation, therein, including agricultural practices; (2) rigorous characterization of human milk composition and factors related to variation, therein; and (3) delineation of what might be considered "optimal" bovine milk composition for human health, realizing that this may change over the lifespan and in specified subpopulations (e.g., those at heightened risk for cardiovascular disease or age-related bone deterioration). All of these goals will be considered within the framework of also understanding if and how agricultural practices thought to be more environmentally sustainable may or may not impact milk production and milk composition. A novel approach to meeting these goals is being undertaken by simultaneously considering how our knowledge of human milk composition, or lack thereof, might inform how we view the optimization of bovine milk composition for human consumption. Aside from assisting researchers and public health experts to better understand how dairy consumption impacts human health, this innovative dual-species approach will also serve the important purpose of identifying gaps in knowledge around human milk composition - a fundamental first step in adding human milk to USDA's food composition database. This, in turn, is necessary to make science-based recommendations for optimal nutrition during infancy, which is mandated in the upcoming (2020-2015) version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (see https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/birthto24months for information related to the USDA's Pregnancy and Birth to 24 Months Project).