Dairy products and the French paradox: Could alkaline phosphatases play a role?

Med Hypotheses. 2016 Jul;92:7-11. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2016.04.033. Epub 2016 Apr 20.


The French paradox - high saturated fat consumption but low incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality - is still unresolved and continues to be a matter of debate and controversy. Recently, it was hypothesised that the high consumption of dairy products, and especially cheese by the French population might contribute to the explanation of the French paradox, in addition to the "(red) wine" hypothesis. Most notably this would involve milk bioactive peptides and biomolecules from cheese moulds. Here, we support the "dairy products" hypothesis further by proposing the "alkaline phosphatase" hypothesis. First, intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP), a potent endogenous anti-inflammatory enzyme, is directly stimulated by various components of milk (e.g. casein, calcium, lactose and even fat). This enzyme dephosphorylates and thus detoxifies pro-inflammatory microbial components like lipopolysaccharide, making them unable to trigger inflammatory responses and generate chronic low-grade inflammation leading to insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity, known risk factors for CVD. Various vitamins present in high amounts in dairy products (e.g. vitamins A and D; methyl-donors: folate and vitamin B12), and also fermentation products such as butyrate and propionate found e.g. in cheese, all stimulate intestinal alkaline phosphatase. Second, moulded cheeses like Roquefort contain fungi producing an alkaline phosphatase. Third, milk itself contains a tissue nonspecific isoform of alkaline phosphatase that may function as IAP. Milk alkaline phosphatase is present in raw milk and dairy products increasingly consumed in France. It is deactivated by pasteurization but it can partially reactivate after thermal treatment. Experimental consolidation of the "alkaline phosphatase" hypothesis will require further work including: systematic alkaline phosphatase activity measurements in dairy products, live dairy ferments and intestine of model animals. Furthermore, stool residual IAP, a possible early marker of diabetes, should be assayed in human cohorts. If confirmed, this "alkaline phosphatase" hypothesis will highlight the protective effects of milk alkaline phosphatase and promote the consumption of (microbiologically safe) raw milk and dairy products. Microorganisms secreting alkaline phosphatases may be privileged as ferments in dairy products.

Keywords: Alkaline phosphatase; Cheese; Dairy products; French paradox; Milk.

MeSH terms

  • Alkaline Phosphatase / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cheese
  • Dairy Products*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fermentation
  • Food Microbiology
  • France
  • Humans
  • Intestines / enzymology
  • Milk
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pasteurization
  • Wine


  • Dietary Fats
  • Alkaline Phosphatase