Antioxidant activity and nutrient release from polyphenol-enriched cheese in a simulated gastrointestinal environment
Green tea polyphenols are recognized for their antioxidant properties and their effects on lipid digestion kinetics. Polyphenols are sensitive to degradation in the intestinal environment. Interactions with dairy proteins could modulate the stability and biological activity of polyphenols during digestion. The objective of this study was to evaluate the release of nutrients (polyphenols, fatty acids and peptides) and the antioxidant activity in polyphenol-enriched cheese containing different levels of calcium in a simulated gastrointestinal environment. The relationship between cheese matrix texture, matrix degradation and nutrient release during digestion was also studied. Green tea extract was added to milk at 0% or 0.1%, and cheeses were produced on a laboratory scale. The level of available calcium was adjusted to low (Calow), regular (Careg) or high (Cahigh) during the salting step of the cheese-making process. Cheeses were subjected to simulated digestion. The rate and extent of fatty acid release were 21% lower for Calow cheese than for Careg and Cahigh cheeses. The greater adhesiveness of Calow cheese, which resulted in lower rates of matrix degradation and proteolysis, contributed to the reduced rate of lipolysis. The presence of green tea extract in cheese reduced the release of free fatty acids at the end of digestion by 7%. The addition of green tea extract increased cheese hardness but did not influence matrix degradation or proteolysis profiles. The formation of complexes between tea polyphenols and proteins within the cheese matrix resulted in a more than twofold increase in polyphenol recovery in the intestinal phase compared with the control (tea polyphenol extract incubated with polyphenol-free cheese). Antioxidant activity was 14% higher in the digest from polyphenol-enriched cheese than in the control. These results suggest that cheese is an effective matrix for the controlled release of nutrients and for the protection of green tea polyphenol integrity and biological activity in the gastrointestinal environment.