Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 45, Number 4, July-August 2005
Page(s) 497 - 511
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 45 (2005) 497-511
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2005034

Focus on the supramolecular structure of milk fat in dairy products

Christelle Lopez

UMR Science et Technologie du Lait et de l'OEuf, INRA-Agrocampus, 65 rue de Saint-Brieuc, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France

Abstract - Bovine fat is dispersed in raw milk as natural milk fat globules, with an average diameter of 4 µm, which are enveloped in a biological membrane, the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM). However, dairy processes modify the supramolecular structure and the surface composition of milk fat. Thus, milk fat is present in many dairy products under various forms. In this study, we focused on the fact that natural milk fat globules are rarely consumed in their native state, i.e. in fresh raw milk. In most drinking milks, fat globules are homogenised in order to avoid their rising at the surface of the products. Furthermore, fat globules are heat treated to avoid the growth of micro-organisms. As a consequence of the technological process applied, the volume-weighted average diameter of fat globules in drinking milks is in the range 0.2-0.5 µm. Homogenisation of fat globules led to the partial disruption of the MFGM and to the adsorption of milk proteins. Moreover, this study showed that in cheeses, milk fat can be dispersed as (i) fat globules with the MFGM, (ii) aggregates of fat globules, (ii) homogenised fat globules, (iii) free fat and (iv) a combination of different phases and structures. The knowledge of the supramolecular structure of milk fat in dairy products is of primary importance regarding its technological, sensorial and nutritional properties.

Key words: milk fat / microstructure / confocal laser scanning microscopy

Corresponding author: Christelle Lopez

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2005