β-lactoglobulin is frequently used in food products for its emulsifying properties. However, it is one of the main proteins responsible for invoking allergic reactions in those people sensitized to milk. Researchers in Spain have investigated the effect of using pulsed light treatment on β-lactoglobulin in an attempt to make it easier to digest and hopefully reduce its allergenic potential.
Pulsed light treatment is already used as a food processing technique to kill microbes that cause spoilage. The intense bursts of light are known to be able to change the structure of food proteins and, through changing the way they bind to enzymes and other biomolecules, this process can alter protein digestibility.
While modifying the conformation of a protein may reduce its impact as an allergen, from an ingredient perspective it is important not to lose protein functionality at the same time.
In this study, pulsed light treatment did not affect the functionality of the β-lactoglobulin protein, but results indicated the digestibility of the protein improved after treatment. Further studies are required to determine whether the increased digestibility translates to reduced allergenicity. If this is the case, pulsed light treatment could be a promising tool to reduce the harm of certain food proteins whilst not changing their important functional properties.
This paper is free to access until 28 November 2014. Download it here: T del Castillo-Santaella et al, Soft Matter, 2014, DOI: 10.1039/c4sm01667j