Tom Jenkins: Low-fat Milk Research

Tom Jenkins, PhD, Professor of Animal Veterinary Sciences

We recognize a number of nutritional benefits from meat and milk we get from cattle, but there are a number of areas that we can improve upon to make it even more healthy for the human food supply. And most of those areas relate to the amount of fat and the type of fat that we see in these products.

My name is Tom Jenkins. I’m a professor in the department of animal and veterinary sciences at Clemson University, and my research program is geared to try to deal with these fat issues by reducing the amount of fat that we get in milk and also make it better, or more heart-healthy. When we try to feed good, heart-healthy, unsaturated oils to the cow, they are quickly degraded by the microorganisms in the stomach. And as she lays down, the unsaturated oils are converted to saturated fats that look like this, and this is what ends up in the meat and the milk and gets passed on in the human food supply.

Now another area that we’ve been exploring is how the microorganisms that are present in the stomach of the cow produce a very specific type of compound called conjugated linoleic acid. There are two advantages of those that we know so far. In addition to them being a very potent, cancer-fighting agent, it also has been shown recently to inhibit body fat synthesis, or reduce fat accumulation.

My research program is aimed at discovering the pathways for the formation of these conjugated linoleic acids to enhance them in meat and milk and also enhance the unsaturated or omega fatty acids that are now known to be beneficial for human health. For more information about our research results and findings, go to the website in the department of animal and veterinary sciences at Clemson University.