Altering the level of calcium changes the physical properties and digestibility of casein-based emulsion gels
Casein-based emulsion gels prepared with different types of lipid (i.e. milk fat or rapeseed oil) were formulated with high (774 mg Ca per 100 g) or low (357 mg Ca per 100 g) calcium levels by blending acid and rennet casein. Their physicochemical characteristics (i.e. composition, texture, microstructure & water mobility) and in vitro digestibility were compared to conventionally formulated high-calcium (723 mg Ca per 100 g) emulsion gels made from rennet casein with calcium chelating salts (CCS). CCS-free, high-calcium emulsion gels were significantly (p ≤ 0.05) softer than those with low calcium levels (possibly due to their shorter manufacture time and higher pH) and showed the highest rates of disintegration during simulated gastric digestion. Despite having a higher moisture to protein ratio, the high-calcium emulsion gels containing CCS had broadly similar hardness values to those of high-calcium concentration prepared without CCS, but had higher cohesiveness. The high-calcium matrices containing CCS had quite a different microstructure and increased water mobility compared to those made without CCS and showed the slowest rate (p ≤ 0.05) of disintegration in the gastric environment. Gastric resistance was not affected by the type of lipid phase. Conversely, fatty acid release was similar for all emulsion gels prepared from milk fat, however, high-calcium emulsion gels (CCS-free) prepared from rapeseed oil showed higher lipolysis. Results suggest that food matrix physical properties can be modified to alter resistance to gastric degradation which may have consequences for the kinetics of nutrient release and delivery of bioactives sensitive to the gastric environment.