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Scientists modify milk protein that causes most milk allergies

Posted:  Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Beta-lactoglobulin is a protein present in the lactose fraction of milk and is responsible for 10% of allergies related to milk. Spanish food scientists have now succeeded in modifying β-lactoglobulin artificially using pulsed light, thereby making it more easily digestible.

Scientists belonging to the University of Granada and the Azti-Tecnalia technology centre used the pulsed light treatment to degrade the structure of β-lactoglobulin. This treatment though commonly used for bacterial inactivation in the food industry has never been used before for modifying proteins. The results of this study have been published in the journal Soft Matter.

Beta-lactoglobulin is difficult to digest because it has a compact and complex structure that resists enzymatic degradation during digestion. However, this complexity and structural integrity is required for the protein to fulfil its functional properties. The pulsed light technique used by the researchers successfully degrades the structure of the protein, but it does so without impacting the functional properties of the protein. The technique has since been patented by the Azti Tecnalia group.

The scientists tested the digestibility of proteins using simulation experiments and demonstrated that pulsed light treatment facilitates the digestion of β-lactoglobulin, particularly in the small intestine.

A researcher from the University of Granada concludes, “Finding a way of improving the digestibility of proteins without altering their functional properties is a current challenge within food technology and, in this respect, the pulsed light treatment is a very promising tool when it comes to the design of low-allergy food products".

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