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Goat Milk and Intolerance

milk intoleranceOver 40% of the adult Italian population have an intolerance to milk. There are three major factors; 1. lactose, present in every type of milk, 2. protein (casein), 3. fats.

Those who are lactose intolerant do not have the enzyme which is responsible for breaking down lactose into its two components: glucose and galactose, simpler digestible sugars. The enzyme is always present in infants as lactose is in breast milk. However, if over time there is an absence of milk in our diet, some research has shown that there is progressively less of the enzyme in our bodies. Generally, people born in the developing world appear far more intolerant than those in the developing countries. For example, the average rate of milk intolerance in Europe is 4%  verses 70% in North African countries.

When making cheese the lactose is transformed by lactic acid bacteria present. As the cheese ages the concentration of lactose gradually decreases becoming insignificant. However, milk intolerance is not exclusively linked to lactose, frequently other intolerance types become prevalent. Goat milk cheeses often do not cause any discomfort for those with an intolerance. This suggests that milk intolerance is linked to its protein component or the lipids (fats). The casein present in goat milk has a completely different structure from that of the casein in cow’s milk which is indigestible to many.

The fats present in goat milk have been shown to be more easily digestible and a “lighter” option with respect to cow milk. This is due to the physical size of the fat molecules in goat milk being much smaller than those present in cow milk. In addition, goat milk fat contains more saturated fatty acids than cow milk. This is significant because this type of fatty acids is not correlated to the quantity of cholesterol in the body.

The compounds found in milk are concentrated in its cheese form. However, cheese is more easily digestible due to the activity of lactic acid bacteria on lactose and other compounds. During the ageing process proteins are also split into simpler components (peptones, amino acids), in addition to lipolysis (breakdown of fats). Fatty acids and aromatic compounds are produced giving each goat cheese there unique smell, flavour, and taste.

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