Low-fat and fat-free food products are gaining popularity among health conscious people. But regular consumption of such food items may result in deficiencies of certain vital nutrients like vitamins and essential fatty acids. Being ‘fat soluble’, such vitamins get removed along with fat when food products are made fat-free.
Scientists are working on ways to keep nutritional content of food products intact even when they are made fat-free or low-fat. Researchers at the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal, have developed a method to enhance nutritional content of fat-free milk by preparing Vitamin A and milk protein complexes.
Vitamin-A is one of the four fat-soluble essential vitamins, the others being D, E and K. The deficiency of Vitamin-A, which is the leading cause of preventable childhood blindness is a major public health problem in India.
Researchers modified casein – a major protein present in milk- with a chemical called succinic anhydride (SA) and prepared succinylated casein-Vit A complexes. They evaluated different combinations and found sodium caseinate-Vit A and succinylated sodium caseinate-Vit A complexes had high Vitamin-A binding ability and solubility. Hence these complexes may be used to retain essential micronutrients in milk.
It has been suggested that casein owing to its unique properties can be easily used as a delivery vehicle for Vitamin-A in milk. Since SA is classified as ‘generally recognized as safe’ substance by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), modifications of casein using SA is considered safe for human consumption.
The new method developed by NDRI team could be used in future for fortification of milk, which is now permitted by Indian regulatory agencies. “The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has already approved addition of vitamins A and D to milk. These vitamins are being used for fortifying milk by Mother Dairy, Amul and many state cooperatives at the moment”, pointed out Dr. Sumit Arora, who led the research team.
The team led by Dr. Sumit Arora included Chitra Gupta, M.A. Syama and Apurva Sharma at the Dairy Chemistry Division, NDRI. This work was published in journal Food Chemistry and was funded by Department of Biotechnology.