Main Article Content
The evolution in the history of nutrition knowledge towards dairy products, is strictly related to the socio-cultural development of humans. In fact, milk and butter have accompanied humans since ancient times, which traces of the consumption of such products are dated back about the earliest times after the last (glaciation) ice age, while the application for extra nutritional uses, such as cosmetics and ceremonial rites, are reported in the writings of the Old Testament. Even in Italy, before the Roman Empire, were known rudimentary techniques of production and storage of dairy products. But only with the advent of the Etruscans, and the Romans later, that the use of milk and dairy products reach a wide diffusion in several applications. Since the advent of Christ until today, milk and its derivatives have maintained a privileged place in the human diet, but it is only with the advent of modern medicine and new findings in lipidic chemistry that emerged multiple biological and nutritional properties, very important for human health. After a short summary of the ancient history of the milk and butter, the role of dairy products in cancer, in hypercholesterolemia, and cardiovascular disease are reported. Moreover, the current opinions on saturated fatty acids, the role of polyunsaturated fatty acids and their lipid mediators obtained by the action of cyclooxygenase, lipoxygenase and the cytochrome P450 enzymes, are treated. Even if sometimes mistreated, the milk, but most of all its high fat content derivatives such as butter, is a rich source of biologically active compounds that foster a controversial action against neolplastic and cardiovascular disease. These compounds, mainly contained in the lipid fraction, for the more obvious relationships that exist between nutrition and health status, have been the subject in the last decades of intense scientific investigation in which there were expressed lights and shadows, but recognizing that not all fats are harmful and further thorough studies are necessary, in particular, on the derived lipid mediators. This will allow a significant progress based on new scientific evidences, further orienting researchers and clinicians on evidencebased nutritional science.
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