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Proteins are the major bioactive components of milk with health benefits ranging from improved cardiovascular functions and cancer prevention to enhanced gut health and upregulated immune response. Whey proteins contain high levels of sulfur amino acids, which supplies cysteine for synthesis of glutathione, a potent cellular antioxidant compound. The sulfur amino acids are beneficial for enhanced immune response, which is also beneficial for reducing the incidence of cancer. In the gut, lactoferrin reduces availability of iron for microbial growth and can prevent pathogenic infections. Similarly, colostrum can reduce microbial infection (especially diarrhea) through enhanced immune system that prevents establishment of pathogenic microbial colonies in the gut. Milk glycoproteins act as prebiotics that promote growth and colony establishment of beneficial bacteria like the lactic acid-producing Bifidobacteria, which helps to eliminate gut pathogens. Milk glycomacropeptide plays a role in satiety by stimulating increased production of cholecystokinin (CCK) in the intestine. CCK slows gastric emptying and increases the feeling of fullness. Probiotics are important milk products containing live health-promoting bacteria species that have been shown to reduce carcinogenesis, allergy, and various intestinal disorders. During stomach digestion of milk fat, the short- and medium-chain free fatty acids that are released contribute to decreased stomach pH, which enhances pepsin activity and strengthens the acid barrier against pathogenic microorganisms.
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