Investigations of the complex relationships between minerals, pH and heat stability in milk protein systems

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Aydogdu, Tugce
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University College Cork
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The complex composition of milk and derivatives therefrom, mean that its stability in respect to thermal treatment, while well studied, is ever evolving. Non-fat milk powders are rich in protein, of which there may be greater than 4500 different nitrogenous compounds, often present in conjunction with milk minerals. Variations in the total concentration and individual components of proteins and minerals makes dairy science a multifaceted system from which nutritional dairy products emerge, manipulated and produced by processing factors such as temperature, pressure, dehydration, shear and filtration. At the centre of dairy processing lies the most basic element fundamental to solvent chemistry; hydrogen, used as a measure of chemical reactions, but more often taken as a control parameter for physical and sensory properties. Therefore, the objective of this thesis was to advance considerably our knowledge on milk protein and milk mineral systems with regard to three main properties; heat stability, viscosity and pH changes, which have cumulative effects on dairy processing performance and finished product quality and functionality. A novel method of measuring pH at ultra-high temperatures was adapted from the pharmaceutical industry and used to examine the hydrogen ion concentration in dairy systems. For the first time, a non-linear decrease in skim milk pH was shown with increasing temperature from 25 to 140°C. The pH of skim milk decreased from 6.7 at 25°C to 6.1 at 140°C, with this reduction being reversible on cooling. This was not the case for milk permeate, where the pH remained low after sequential heating and cooling, due to irreversible calcium phosphate formation and precipitation. This highlights the stabilizing ability of micellar casein in skim milk against significant levels of calcium phosphate precipitation. However, while precipitation might be reduced, the addition of milk permeate to milk protein concentrate (MPC) resulted in substantial levels of age thickening after evaporation (45% dry matter), whereas MPC with added lactose showed no age related viscosity increase. The former system also had lower pH compared to the latter. Given the significant influence milk permeate had on viscosity of protein solutions, the heat coagulation time of commercial bulk skim milk obtained across the spring period was assessed to determine if the changes in milk composition from early lactation affected heat stability. Type B HCT-pH profiles were shown for bulk milk samples taken in February and March, compared to a type A profile for April milk, with this type A profile continuing for the remainder of the year. This is the first time that a change in HCT profile has been shown for commercial bulk milk samples; although there was no obvious difference in milk composition between any of the samples. Ultrafiltration of the skim milks was performed to obtain milk permeate fractions and was used to swap the retentate obtained in February with the permeate from April milk. This showed that a type B HCT-pH profile in February could be changed to a type A profile by simply swapping the serum phase. The outcomes of the research in this thesis are highly applicable to the thermal processing of complex nutritional formulations (e.g., infant formulas), where mineral additions and substitutions are common practice. The ability to measure pH during UHT processing is certainly a highlight of the work presented herein. In addition, a key new finding is that macro composition, specifically protein and mineral profile, is not always a good predictor of HCT, but that the serum phase of milk has the more substantial effect on heat stability than the colloidal phase on its own. The work presented in the thesis provides novel information to both the dairy industry and academia, in terms of process control through in-line pH measurement, and the fundamental effects of milk serum on protein heat stability.
pH , Minerals , Heat stability , Serum minerals
Tugce, A. 2023. Investigations of the complex relationships between minerals, pH and heat stability in milk protein systems. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.