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Study finds surprising benefits about diary cow inflammation

amatic drop in plasma glucose concentration in mature cows. Both of these responses are often associated with metabolic disease in early lactation cows.

"The study improved our understanding of the re-prioritization process by suggesting that inflammatory pathways promote a temporary state of insulin resistance in dairy cows, resulting in conservation of glucose for use by the mammary gland," Bradford said.

The results of the study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, indicate that inflammation-induced insulin resistance is in some cases an adaptive, rather than pathological, phenomenon. It may help clarify why the links between inflammation and metabolism have survived the evolution process, he said.

And it's not just cattle that experience the shift in demands on the body: "Many species experience these dramatic shifts," Bradford said. "The role of inflammation in this process has not been studied very much. We are missing some information about why our bodies are wired the way they are even after evolutionary refinement of the immune system, there seems to be a role for inflammation in metabolic function."

The research team's findings have been published by the American Journal of Physiology.

"Our findings suggest that we want some degree of inflammation at this time because it helps the animal shift gears," Bradford said. "Rather than thinking of mild inflammation as a disease-inducing factor, we think there may be times during life where some inflammation is advantageous or necessary."

The research team plans to delve into the topic further and is seeking funding to find evidence of the phenomenon in other species.


Contact: Barry Bradford
Kansas State University

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