The proteins in milk after treating it at ultra high temperature (UTH) aggregate over a period of months and are found in plaque deposits in cases of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
A new study on UHT milk is helping scientists to better understand Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and type 2 diabetes, opening the door to improved treatments for these age-related diseases. About 500 million people worldwide suffer from these diseases, which cause millions of deaths each year.
Co-lead researcher, ANU Professor John Carver, said that two unrelated proteins aggregate in UHT milk over a period of months to form clusters called amyloid fibrils, which cause the milk to transform from a liquid into a gel.
"Our interest in milk proteins led to a discovery of the reason for this gelling phenomenon occurring in aged UHT milk. The research does not suggest UHT milk can cause these age-related diseases."
Professor Carver said milk proteins changed structurally when heated briefly to around 140 degrees to produce UHT milk, causing the gelling phenomenon with long-term storage. He said normal pasteurised milk did not form amyloid fibrils.