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Production of cla-enriched dairy products by natural means

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Research gives an even healthier goat's cheese

Cheese is a tasty, versatile, functional food. Scientists have investigated how to maximise the food's health-promoting conjugated linoleic acid content without compromising its texture and sensory qualities.

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Manufactured from milk, cheese has always been regarded as a compact supply of the major nutrients together with many of the required vitamins and minerals. Its worth however has been promoted to even higher position on the "good for you" ladder. Presence of members of the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) family in cheese has boosted its status as a functional food. There is increasing evidence that CLAs prevent cancer, have antioxidant properties with the added bonus of acting as a fat burner. Partners with the European funded BIOCLA project aimed to increase the CLA content of milk-based foods by specially developed feeding and husbandry strategies. Their work covered cattle, sheep and goats but project members from the Clermont-Theix Research Centre in France focused on goat's cheese in particular. To do this, they ran three studies when different diets were fed to goats. These varied in terms of concentration of forage or grazed plant material. Supplements of linseed oil, sunflower oil and vitamin E were then added. Resulting levels of CLA in the cheeses were assessed. Panels of experts then rated the cheeses in sensory and flavour tests. Sensory tests gave a grade for odour, flavour and texture. Sixty French consumers gave a global appreciation mark which ranged from 1(indicating a bad cheese) to 7 (very good). In particular, a low mark was scored for a goaty or a yeasty flavour. Overall, the cheeses were rated as medium or good enough by the French consumers. Lipid supplement from the two oils resulted in a very high CLA content. This was sometimes marred however, by defects in flavour particularly from linseed oil. Addition of vitamin E resulted in lower undesirable fat oxidation levels, expected because of its antioxidant properties. The results of this study are undeniably comprehensive. Goat's cheese and other products can be manufactured from CLA enriched milk. For the cheese industry therefore, they have shown that cheese can be marketed as a functional food with no significant loss of taste and other important sensory properties. The medical, pharmaceutical and food industries also stand to benefit from this research.

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