A University of Alberta study shows that dairy cows with a certain genetic makeup are better than their herdmates at producing milk with cancer-fighting properties when fed a high-fat diet.

"By feeding animals a high-fat diet, it was found that certain genetically superior cows were able to sustain production of conjugated lineolic acid, or CLA, better than others," said Laura Clark, a researcher in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science who conducted the study for her master's degree. "There is potential to breed the superior cows, as opposed to those with reduced ability, to produce CLA when fed a high-fat diet."

CLA has been shown to have many human health benefits, including the ability to act as an anti-carcinogen, she noted. "The findings show how genetic selection could be used in future to select for cows with a better ability to produce milk and other dairy products that may benefit human health."

The research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and DairyGen.

(Source: University of Alberta: June 2009)