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Food Microbiol. 2008 May;25(3):442-51. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2008 Feb 2.

Whey fermentation by thermophilic lactic acid bacteria: evolution of carbohydrates and protein content.

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Centro de Referencia para Lactobacilos (CERELA)-CONICET, Chacabuco 145, 4000 San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina.


Whey, a by-product of the cheese industry usually disposed as waste, is a source of biological and functional valuable proteins. The aim of this work was to evaluate the potentiality of three lactic acid bacteria strains to design a starter culture for developing functional whey-based drinks. Fermentations were performed at 37 and 42 degrees C for 24h in reconstituted whey powder (RW). Carbohydrates, organic acids and amino acids concentrations during fermentation were evaluated by RP-HPLC. Proteolytic activity was measured by the o-phthaldialdehyde test and hydrolysis of whey proteins was analyzed by Tricine SDS-PAGE. The studied strains grew well (2-3log cfu/ml) independently of the temperature used. Streptococcus thermophilus CRL 804 consumed 12% of the initial lactose concentration and produced the highest amount of lactic acid (45 mmol/l) at 24h. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus CRL 454 was the most proteolytic (91 microg Leu/ml) strain and released the branched chain amino acids Leu and Val. In contrast, Lactobacillus acidophilus CRL 636 and S. thermophilus CRL 804 consumed most of the amino acids present in whey. The studied strains were able to degrade the major whey proteins, alpha-lactalbumin being degraded in a greater extent (2.2-3.4-fold) than beta-lactoglobulin. Two starter cultures were evaluated for their metabolic and proteolytic activities in RW. Both cultures acidified and reduced the lactose content in whey in a greater extent than the strains alone. The amino acid release was higher (86 microg/ml) for the starter SLb (strains CRL 804+CRL 454) than for SLa (strains CRL 804+CRL 636, 37 microg/ml). Regarding alpha-lactalbumin and beta-lactoglobulin degradation, no differences were observed as compared to the values obtained with the single cultures. The starter culture SLb showed high potential to be used for developing fermented whey-based beverages.

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