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Genetic Variation Impacts Vitamin B12 in Milk

26 June 2013

NETHERLANDS - Results from a study within the 'Melk op Maat' project, part of the Dutch Milk Genomics Initiative, have revealed that genetic variation in the vitamin B12 content of milk from dairy cows could potentially provide natural enrichment of this important source of vitamin B12 for human consumption.

Vitamin B12 is essential for human health and milk is an important dietary source of this vitamin. Variation in the vitamin B12 content of milk is partly due to genetic variation between cows. Thus, the average vitamin B12 content of milk in the cow population can be increased by genetic selection. Current human intake levels of vitamin B12 are considered to be too low. Natural enrichment of the vitamin B12 content of milk may help to increase the intake of this vitamin.

Natural enrichment of the milk vitamin B12 content can be achieved through genetic selection, because a substantial amount of genetic variation in vitamin B12 content was detected among milk samples of Dutch Holstein Friesian cows. The presence of genetic variation between animals in the vitamin B12 content of milk indicates that a cow's genotype influences the amount of vitamin B12 that ends up in her milk. Genetic selection can therefore be used to increase the average vitamin B12 content of milk in the cow population.

A genome-wide association study at Wageningen University revealed significant association between regions of the bovine genome and vitamin B12 content of milk. This knowledge facilitates genetic selection for the vitamin B12 content of milk. It also contributes to our understanding of the biological mechanism related to the genetic variation in vitamin B12 content of milk. This study showed that most known candidate genes for vitamin B12 are not likely to be responsible for the observed genetic variation in the vitamin B12 content of milk.

Further Reading

You can view the full report in PLOS ONE by clicking here.

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