Is milk still milk?

An article by José Antonio Mendizabal Aizpuru, Professor of Animal Production, Researcher at the ISFOOD Institute, Public University of Navarre

It has been with us for millions of years. In the form of mother’s milk, it is the first food that mammals receive; the only one who, in our first stages of life, is able to provide us nutritional principles essential for good neuronal, bone and muscle developmentin addition to the necessary immunoglobulins provide defenses to newborns.

All this constitutes irrefutable proof that it is a healthy, healthy and balanced diet with innumerable beneficial properties for the human being. It is perhaps for this reason that a large part of the population chooses to maintain milk of animal origin (especially cow) in their diet once the lactation phase is over. In the form of liquid milk or in the form of dairy derivatives.

From pasteurization to milk lightenriched, lactose-free…

Throughout history, milk has had to adapt to the needs of our species. The discovery of different techniques (fermentation, smoking, etc.) has made it possible to enhance certain properties and above all to allow long conservation for use in difficult times. This is how yoghurts, cheeses and the various by-products so widely consumed today were born.

More recently, in the second half of the 19th century, the discoveries of Louis Pasteur (1864) represented a turning point in the evolution of the consumption of this food. The discovery by the French scientist that high temperature treatment (pasteurization) of inactivated microorganisms was later applied to milk by the German scientist Franz von Soxhlet (1886).

The practice of pasteurization, in addition to considerably increasing the shelf life of milk, has considerably reduced the appearance of diseases such as tuberculosis, salmonellosis or Maltese fever and It was a great step forward for humanity..

A century later, the change in eating habits in Western civilization led to the appearance of milk lightwhich is defatted, or enriched milk, to which are incorporated, among other things, polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega 3 type.

In addition, due to the specific needs of certain populations with intolerances or certain deficiencies, varieties without lactose or supplemented with calcium, vitamin D, etc. have seen the day.

The genomic revolution

Currently, the great advances in molecular biology, which make it possible to know in detail the genome of different species, have led to the development of what is called genomics. Thanks to this discipline, it is now possible to select milk-producing animals with differential characteristics regulated by one or more specific and known genes.

Thus, milks such as the so-called A2, which are characterized by containing only the A2 variant of the beta-casein protein, the main protein component of cow’s milk, are beginning to reach the consumer.

Since the A1 variant is absent, a peptide called β-casomorphin-7 is prevented from being released during the digestive process at the intestinal level, which can cause intestinal discomfort and, on occasion, intolerance. For this reason, A2 milk began to be marketed as a product that is more digestible and suitable for people who are intolerant to beta-casein A1.

Milks optimized for making cheese

There are also more and more breeders who genotype – that is, determine the genetic variants – of their animals and select them in order to obtain better yields in the process of making cheese and cheese. yogurt.

For example, it appears that a certain variant of the kappa-casein protein, specifically B, promotes milk curdling, which allows to obtain better results in the elaboration of cheeses. On the way, therefore, the definition of a new variety of milk optimized for the production of this product.

These are just two representatives of the current applications of genomics which, without a doubt, will allow the development of new types of milk in the years to come, adapting at all times to the needs of consumers.

If milk has always been present in our history, it is foreseeable that it will continue to be so in the future, with different updates. Perhaps even more present than ever.

This article was originally posted on The Conversation

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