Goat Milk Composition
The study of goat milk composition follows centuries, if not millenia, of reported health benefits of goat milk versus that of other dairy animals. Many of these studies have, indeed, been able to provide a substantial scientific connection between the molecular components of goat milk and purported benefits.
In other cases, however, studies are "inconclusive" or even seem contradictory to widely held cause-and-effect relationships between goat milk and related health claims. This does not discourage goat milk proponents, however.
The lag behind scientific validation and "common knowledge" has been seen in other attempts to prove longstanding, commonly held relationships, particularly in the field of herbal and natural medicine.
In recent years, however, scientists have begun to be more receptive to the idea that not every benefit can be pinpointed to specific components; rather, the overall properties and interactions of those components also provide benefits that are less amenable to analysis by scientific methods.
Perhaps, one day, scientific methods will "catch up" to even more proofs of health benefits from the study of goat milk composition, but, while we wait...we can be enjoying our own taste-testing studies!
Pass the garlic and dill goat cheese, please!
In this article, we'll look at both naturally occurring factors in the composition of goat milk, and deliberate actions to influence and improve goat milk nutrition properties.
The composition of milk is a variable factor. Although the publication of standardized tables, such as this one from the USDA for goat milk might lead you to believe that all goat milk is the same, this is far from the case.
In fact, you will probably find some significant discrepancies in milk composition statistics from various sources.
It's well-documented that fairly large differences in composition occur naturally, by factors such as genetics, breed, stage of lactation at the time of milk collection, and both the quantity and quality of feeds. For this reason, most quantitative analyses of the composition of milk are the results of either herd averages or breed averages over a period of time.
These studies are particularly interesting, as documented factors affecting milk ingredients can be used to tailor goat milk composition for specific health concerns.
For example, there are goats who genetically produce milk absent in a protein known as alpha-s1-casein. This is good news to the portion of the population who suffers from cow's milk allergy related to this particular protein.
(It's not so good news for cheesemakers, though, as the alpha-s1-casein protein is also the ingredient that helps make a firm curd for hard cheeses.)
Factors other than naturally occurring variations are important, too. In the article, "Composition of Goat Milk and Factors Affecting It," George Haaenlein, of the University of Delaware, summarizes the results of studies on the effects of various dietary changes on the resulting composition of goat milk. A few of the findings include:
- Decreasing forage-to-feed concentrate ratio decreased milk fat and increased protein.
- Feeding of sodium bicarbonate buffer improved the percentages of fat and total solids.
- Later stages of lactation are associated with an increase in the content of fat, protein and many minerals, and with a decrease in lactose, potassium and citrate.
At the extreme end of manipulating factors to affect goat milk composition is the controversial area of transgenic research, in which goats are genetically altered to produce milk with certain qualities.
One report that demonstrates the use of transgenics to affect goat milk ingredients includes
This report documents a study in which goats were bred through gene-transfer technology for the purpose of producing milk with lysozyme
, a component found in human breast milk that contributes to intestinal health by inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria, while encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria.
The researchers anticipate that such milk could be used to prevent deaths from diarrheal illness in developing countries.
Another report involves goats that were genetically altered to produce large amounts of a protein known as antithrombin in their milk. The antithrombin is collected and used in a drug called ATryn which acts as a blood thinner for humans.
Even without genetic "super-charging," goat milk provides many health benefits based on its unique composition.
You can read more about the individual components in goat milk and their impact on health in the article, Goat Milk Ingredients.
Bruhn, John C., "Dairy Goat Milk Composition," http://www.goatworld.com/articles/goatmilkcomposition.shtml.
Haenlein, George F.W., "Composition of Goat Milk and Factors Affecting It," http://goatconnection.com/articles/publish/article_70.shtml, October 28, 2002.
McNally, Alex, Goat Milk Prevents Iron Deficiency - Study, 31 July 2007, www.nutraingredients.com.
Transgenic Goat Milk Could Prevent Diarrhea in Developing World, 04 August 2006, www.nutraingredients.com.
Nutritional studies are ongoing, so check back here for any new information related to goat milk composition!
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